Stories of Sexual Denial in Marriage – Episode 6

This next story of sexual denial comes from a man who is a minister and has been married 27 years.  I asked him for some clarification on his initial comments because I had some confusion on how often he was having sex with his wife.  I truly believe that as a minister he has the potential to make a huge impact for God with this situation.

Just a warning – this is probably the longest post I have ever done, but what has been said here needed to be said. But for men seeking help I believe it is worth the read.

Joe’s Story

“My wife and I have been married 27 years. I’m a minister.
We have been sexual only 7 times. (when she wants to be) This is the middle of September.
She tells me that sex is the farthest thing from her mind. I exercise often and am in athletic condition and well groomed. I do the things that most women complain about their husband NOT doing. I do most of the chores and cook almost all of the meals.

My wife says that she’s attracted to me and we are very nice to each other. We hold hands often. I give her back rubs which seems to help her chronic pain that she’s had for a number of years. She comes in from work every day totally exhausted and wanting no affection from me, unless it’s just a small kiss.

I’ve lovingly told her how rejected I feel for her not wanting to have sex with me. Oh, every time in our married life when we make love I always help her to achieve an orgasm.

At our last counseling appointment the counselor reiterated scripture that you mentioned above. The thing is…I don’t want her to make love to me out of a “duty”. I want her to do it because SHE wants to. I want to be desired her but she’s not interested.

I’m feeling resentful and very angry. I feel unloved. I recently just read Kevin Leman’s book “Sheet Music” and it made me angry cause I know that my wife will never do the things that Leman mentioned.
From what I’ve read in other articles if you have sex less than 8 times in a year that’s considered a “sexless” marriage.

I never thought I would only be 53 and be in a sexless marriage. If I were 85 or 90 I could understand but I’m so frustrated right now and honestly do not see an end to this. For me to “divorce” her over this could put an end to me being a pastor. I doubt seriously I could convince others that she’s committed sexual immorality against me over not wanting to have sex with me.

I’ve tried to woo her, wanting to take her on a date, just me and her. Nope, she’s too tired and wants to veg out on Netflix. I’ve suggested a weekend away somewhere or a cruise, just me and her. Not interested. I married “in sickess and in health, richer or poorer” but I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS. I’ve shed a bucket of tears over this and just don’t know how much more rejection I can handle. I’m ready to leave.”

He then responded to my questions asking for clarification with these comments:

“Sorry for the confusion. I meant to say we’ve had sex 7 times this year. ..which is way better than 7 times in 27 years. We’ve been seeing a wonderful Christian counselor…for other other issues but Only 2 times now for this particular “no sex” issue.

Sex in our marriage started out great..like most couples but then when children came along it basically came to a screeching halt. With child #2 my wife seemed to be sick the entire pregnancy which meant no sex for me…but i felt sorry for her. She also seemed to develop an invisible disease called fibromyalgia which causes pain all over her body. Its hard to diagnose. It was pretty bad for a number of years. We would only have sex a handful of times a year (whenever SHE was in the mood) .

Now things are somewhat better with her physically but we still seldom have any sex or any other physical touch. The issue now is she works full time, comes home and collapses and has nothing left. She says she loves me but just has no interest in sex. I’ve told her how i feel. The counselor (a woman) has used the same scripture you mentioned.
There is however, a ray of hope. Today she left me a note saying that she wants to pursue passion and for me not to despair. She does realize that she’s not normal. But it’s very upsetting to me that regardless of her non existent libido that she would not care about my desires and needs. I don’t feel desired at all.

Ive noticed that as a result of my situation i am now being tempted to do some immoral things. Have not given in yet but i feel very vulnerable right now. At this point i have resentment that’s built up. I lay awake at night wanting to be touched…and honestly it all just ticks me off. I want to sleep somewhere else.

In response to your last questions:
She initiates. And yes, i gave up initiating long ago because of the rejection. She lets me know when. When she IS in the mood i will ask “is there something i did that put you in the mood? If so what was it so i can try that again.” As far as touch she does not smack my hand but just move it away and then tell me she’s too tired or she’s hurting (with her pain issue). At the moment she feels like i am pressuring her and all i am doing is trying to have conversation about it. “Speak the truth in love”. Im trying real hard to get the “in love” part. I’ve read both books our counselor suggested in three days. She’s struggling to read them cause she doesn’t want to and said it makes her angry. Im all alone here.

My Response to Joe and other men who see themselves in this situation

First and foremost I want to extend my heart felt sympathy to this Christian husband and any other Christian husband who faces this issue of chronic and willful sexual denial from his wife.

Joe truly seems to have been trying to “woo” his wife, to see what he can do to put her in the mood.  He gives her back rubs, he does most of the cooking and cleaning  all in an attempt to relieve her stress which might allow her to be in the mood more often.  He tries to take her on dates. On those rare occasions when she is in the mood he asks her what put her in the mood so he can do whatever that is more to help her to be in the mood more often.

He has shared his frustration with his wife and she has been honest with him that she simply does not have the desire to have sex.

Joe is right that he is truly living in a sexless marriage(only 7 times in a year).

Joe’s situation is further compounded by the fact that he is a minister and he is afraid of what it will do to his Church if he confronts his wife and has to divorce her.

Joe’s story is very close to my own

I receive these emails and comments all the time and rarely do I see a story that so closely mimics issues I faced in my own marriage.   I believe God is leading me to share my story here for Joe as an encouragement for him to learn from what God had to show me in my marriage.  Previously I have shared bits and pieces about my marriage history in other posts.  But this will probably be the most I have ever opened up about my marriage history in a single post.

As I have stated on several occasions on this blog – I was divorced from my first wife with whom I had my children.  While it takes two for a marriage to fall apart the fault is not always equal on both sides. I was not the perfect husband and I know that I failed her many ways, despite trying to love her the best I could.

In my first marriage my wife had several affairs.  We really didn’t have sexual issues in the sense that until we were getting divorced she really never denied me sexually.  But I could never trust her as she would keep returning to affairs and I had to eventually divorce her.

Not long after I divorced her – I went on a Christian dating site where I met the woman who would eventually become my second wife.  When we were first married the sex was great! For about 3 months.

Then after about 3 months of marriage my wife started feeling more free to turn me down for sex. During this same period the personal touching between us went down drastically as well.  My wife started sitting on her couch and I had my couch, and if I were to go and try and sit with her to cuddle up she would tell me she needed her space.

My wife worked a full time job as a manager and she would routinely tell me she was stressed out from work and she had back pain and foot pain from her job.

Why did I marry a career woman?

I realize that may seem like a complete contradiction to what I believe and teach on this site – why would I marry a career woman? The reason is because after my divorce from my first wife I was in the position where I had older children who did not need a mother at home to care for them.  If you look closely at my articles on this site about career women – I say that a woman should not work until at least when her kids are in school and they are not needing full time care at home from their mother.

But even though I am not against women working outside the home when their kids are grown and in school, I think they have to be careful of over committing themselves to their jobs to the neglect of their husbands, their children or their home.

My first wife was a very untrustworthy woman constantly lying and doing things behind my back.  The most important thing to me was finding a Christian woman and a person I could trust with my heart and my children and one that would not betray me as my first wife had.

My second wife was involved in her church before I met her  – she went on missions trips and was involved in various ministries of her church.   I met her family and church friends and found that my wife was a woman with great character.   Once I realized she was the kind of woman who would never betray me and that we shared a common faith in Christ that was it – I was head over heels for her!

She was married previously and was never able to have kids and I came with a ready made family.  My kids loved her and she loved them.  We were married about a year after we met.

While we were dating and then engaged we did talk about how I felt about Biblical gender roles and she asked if it would be a problem with me that she worked full time once she knew my beliefs.  I told her that as long she put me, my kids and our home before her career I had no problem with her continuing to work as a manager since my kids were older and in school full time.  I even offered to help with doing half the house work.

But even while we were dating I detected feminist tendencies in her that she had from her upbringing(her mom was a career woman as well).  Her mom even told me on one occasion that she taught her daughters to “be independent and not need a man”.  So even though my wife had become a Christian a few years before she met me, the feminism ran deep in her.  I also detected that her job as a manager might cause some friction in her commitment to our marriage and our home.

But she was so different from my first wife, and such a good Christian woman with great character that I chose to overlook some of these areas that would later come back to haunt me, naively thinking I could help her to see what God says a Christian woman’s priorities should be in regard to her husband, her children and her home.

Some might say “well they were not her children” so they are not her responsibility.   That is false.  When a woman agrees to marry a man who already has children, she agrees to be a mother to his children and we agreed to that before we were married.

So now with all that as a backdrop to the sexual issues I faced with my wife let me go into what I did to address the issue of my wife’s sexual denial.

Mr Nice guy goes to work

So like Joe I went to work trying to help reduce my wife’s stress.  My first wife was a traditional stay at home mom and did the majority of the cooking and cleaning(although I did cook frequently too).

My second wife was the polar opposite – she was a hardworking successful career woman working as a manager.   My second wife did not cook much as her mother did not cook much so she had no example to learn from.  Her father cooked more often then her mother because he got home from his factory job earlier than her mom from her office job.  Her mom would take care of most of the laundry.

My wife has admitted to me many times that for her growing the norm was “the dad does the cooking and the mom does the laundry” so this is why she never really took an interest in learning how to cook.

So my wife did not have the homemaker model of mother teaching her how to cook.  It was a big change for her to cook at all for our family but she tried.  Not long into our marriage I took on most of the cooking duties(where I cooked about 80% to 90%  of the time)  and at some points I cooked 100% of the time.  Eventually I was doing most of the laundry but she would help put the clean and folded clothes a way.

I hoped that by doing all these things it would help reduce the stress I saw in my wife and perhaps it would jump start and rekindle our love life.  I would try to take her on dates and buy my wife expensive jewelry and take her on expensive getaways(just me and her).  Because she suffered back pain I would give her back rubs and foot rubs.

None of this worked to get her to open up sexually or for us to even have more non sexual touch(like sitting on couch cuddling up together).

At one point in the first year of our marriage I remember sitting in a parking lot and I just told my wife how I felt. I wept. I told her that this was not how marriage was supposed to be were a couple rarely had sex and rarely touched one another.

She told me very candidly that while she understood my feelings, that she felt that a couple should only have sex when both the husband and wife are in the mood and that she really was not in the mood that often – maybe once or twice a month. She told me she was not a “touchy feely person” and she needed her space.  She told me that she loved me, enjoyed spending time together and going on trips together, but that she felt marriage should be more about companionship and friendship than having to be about these physical things.

I asked her “What happened to the woman I dated and the woman who I was married to for the first few months of our marriage?”

Her response was “That was not the real me.  That was just because our relationship was brand new, now this is what I am really like.” She then told me that since we were not young, but in our 30’s that “Sex and touchiness should not be a big deal – that is for younger couples in their teens and early 20’s”.

I wish I could say that right after that conversation I went to work confronting my wife’s sexual denial as I now advice men to do in many posts on this site.  I did tell her that day that I thought she was wrong, but then I dropped it hoping she would realize it on her own and change.

I continued doing almost all the cooking and laundry, taking her on dates and trips, buying her expensive jewelry and giving her back rubs and foot rubs.

Then she began to have health problems which eventually lead to her having to step down from her job as a manager and she worked a regular worker part time.   Then she had a car accident which caused her to become disabled.  During all this time I cared for her with all her various ailments.

I believe in some ways God allowed all these things to come into my wife’s life to humble her, because she was so neglectful of our marriage and our home in favor of her career and other interests.

But even through God allowed all these things to come into my wife’s life and despite my caring for her needs and taking care of the household duties she continued to sexually deny me except on the rare occasions that she was in the mood.  She also continued to deny me the physical touch(not just sexual, but just touch) that I so needed.

So you can see by my own story that I can very much relate to Joe’s story.

My confrontation of my wife’s sexual denial

Eventually I came to the point where I realized that I could not stand back and allow my wife’s behavior to go unchecked. Despite all the trials God had brought into her life to show her that her marriage and family were more important than her career she did not see the changes that God was trying make in her life.

She continued to focus on the loss of her health and her job with no consideration for the opportunity God had given her to focus on our marriage and our family.

This is not to say that I had not complained to her before this – but it was just that a complaint with no followup.

Then God revealed to me that I was not powerless to try and change this situation with my wife. I realized that God had called me not only to love her and care for her physical and emotional needs, but also to rebuke sin in her life toward our marriage.

We went and counseled with our Pastor and his wife(whom she respects) and our Pastor made it clear to her that God says a wife is not to deny her husband sexually, even if she is not in the mood.

After that she stopped denying me for a short period but then it started up again. At that point I felt the Lord leading me to discipline my wife.  I stopped buying her flowers(I used to buy them at least once or twice a month for her).  I stopped taking her to our favorite restaurants when my kids were with their mom.  I stopped the weekend getaways and I stopped the jewelry and gifts.  I stopped giving her the back and foot massages. The message was clear – this sinful behavior will stop.

At first she acted stubborn about it, and then she tried to pull the “Am I your whore that I have to perform to get these things”.  She told me “you just think marriage is all about sex”.

I told her “I do not expect you to have sex with me in order for you to get these things from me – in fact you ought to have sex with me regardless of if I do those things. I expect you to honor the vows you made to God and me when we got married to respect me, submit to me and give me your body freely and without complaint.”

I told her “you are breaking the marriage vows you made to me and you are being unfaithful to me by denying me sexually – this is a breach of our marriage covenant”. I made it clear to her that I would eventually seek divorce if this situation did not change.

You know what happened? Now she does not deny me except for when she is truly sick and I know she is, and then she humbly gives me a rain check.  Has she had some relapses where turns me down in a wrong way or for wrong reasons? Yes. Do we still have issues with her not wanting to touch? Yes.   But I address it head on and remind her that I won’t tolerate this sin to rise up again in our marriage.

I also realized that I was not only enabling her sin of sexual denial, but I was also enabling her laziness.  Yes she had some health issues, but according to her own doctors it would be healthy for her to do things like wash dishes and do laundry as long as I could help her with any heavy lifting(which I always still do).

So I told her I expected her to do what she could and that meant doing dishes and learning to cook.  I would no longer cook 80% percent of the time now that she is at home full time.  You know what? She learned how to cook.  She looks up recipes and now she cooks 80% of the time and I only cook 20% of the time.  She packs my lunch every evening for me to take to work the next morning.

Has my wife completely turned from her feminist tendencies and fully embraced Biblical patriarchy as I have laid out on this site?  No she has not.  But she has made progress and I recognize that.  However, it is my job as a husband to not only continue to search my own self for sinful thoughts and actions but to search my wife as well.  Ephesians 5: 25-27 tells us that as Christian husbands part of loving our wives is for us to wash their spiritual spots, wrinkles and blemishes with the Word of God as Christ washes his Church.

My wife, like myself, still has many spiritual spots, wrinkles and blemishes that need to be washed.  However, while it is not her job as one under my spiritual authority to wash my spiritual spots, wrinkles and blemishes  – it is my job to wash hers.

But I can only wash my wife as she full submits to God and then to me.  She no longer flat out denies like she did before but she still has not fully recognized that God made her for me and has given her to me.  She still is retaining ownership of herself.

A battle plan for Joe and other husbands facing this situation

Joe – this is about way more than your feelings and your frustrations.  This about sin in your wife’s life.  But you can’t take on sin in your wife’s life until you take on the sin in your own life.

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;  that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” – Hebrews 12:15-16 (KJV)

Your wife has sinned against you and she has hurt you in a very personal way by sexually denying you and refusing to give you the affection that every man needs from the woman he loves.

But as a minister I know that you know one sin never justifies another sin.  You have allowed a root bitterness and resentment to grow up and you need to rid yourself of that so you can clearly see and confront the sin in your wife’s life.  I struggled with this bitterness and resentment toward my wife for a while until I realized it was making me powerless to confront my wife’s sin.  I needed God’s power to confront my wife and I would not have that till I made my own heart right with God.

Once you make your heart right with God – you will be ready to take on your wife’s sin head on.

You said there is a “ray of hope” and your wife acknowledges the issue.  But my wife did that too but she would change for a week and go back to the same behavior. Your wife may do this as well.  You can’t let her just say “I know I need to change”, actions must follow her words and there needs to be a consistent change.

If you don’t see this real and consistent change occur then you need to move to discipline with your wife(tough love).

First realize why you are disciplining your wife

Your wife is acting selfishly toward you and thinks she should only have to have sex with you or let you touch her when she feels like it which is clear violation of God’s Word.

“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)

The  Bible also says you as her husband are to be able to be find satisfaction in your wife’s body and be ravished by her love – something she is not doing.

“Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” – Proverbs 5:19 (KJV)

Remember God made your wife as a helper for you, not you as a helper for her.

“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” – I Corinthians 11:9 (KJV)

This is not to say that husbands should not serve their wives as Christ washed his Apostles feet.  But it must clear in your relationship who is the leader of your home and who is the helper in your home. And this is not about you being selfish. Biblically speaking selfishness  is when we think ONLY of our needs and not the needs of others.   But it is not selfish to also think of your needs.

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4 (NASB)

Most of the time sexual denial, especially on the part of the wife is way bigger than just sex.  Sexual denial is just the tip of the iceberg.  The issue is your wife’s attitude toward her role as your help meet.  She may say she believes she is to be a help meet to you – but her actions show something very different.

Her actions show a woman who has no problem with her husband acting as her help meet, instead of her acting as his help meet.  This needs to change.

How to discipline your wife

Joe – you need to confront this sin head on in your wife’s life by removing the back rubs, the dates and doing all the chores.  Does she really need to work? Maybe you can bring up to her that if she is so exhausted from her job maybe she does not need to work.  But whether she works or not – she must reserve some energy for you.  Her focus needs to be more on her role as your help meet and less on her role as an employee of whatever company she works for.

If she will not listen and rebels against your attempts to bring godly correction into her life then you may have to move to the next level.

It maybe require you stepping down from your Church as Pastor in anticipation of divorcing your wife for her marital unfaithfulness(which sexual denial is form of).

I know that some of my readers will disagree, but I do believe that one of the qualifications of Pastors, Deacons and Widows that serve directly in Church is that they cannot be divorced:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” – I Timothy 3:2 (KJV)

“Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” – I Timothy 3:12 (KJV)

“Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.” – I Timothy 5:9 (KJV)

But this does not have to be the end of your life, but rather a new beginning and imagine the impact and spot light you could bring to sexual denial in marriage – something that is far too often ignored in our churches today.

This situation could be used for God’s glory

I know it does not seem like it now and you might be wondering – “How could God possibly get any glory from this horrible situation?”

If your wife repents and changes her ways – if she truly realizes how she was not being the help meet to you that God meant her to be you could use this to show other women how to be better help meets to their husbands by meeting their sexual needs.  Your wife could teach women’s classes and share her story and how God changed her life.

I know that many would disagree with me about this – but I believe if your wife remains in sinful rebellion that you need to let your Church know why you are getting divorced.  Do you realize as a minister how much impact this could have? I have no doubt there are other men in your church that face this issue and they do not know how to confront it.  In fact you could end up being an influence on many Christian men in other churches in the area.

You could literally ignite a spiritual fire in your church and perhaps other churches in the area for men to stand up and lead in their homes in this all important area of sexuality.

I hope this will be of some encouragement to you as you seek the Lord’s guidance.

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Why would my husband marry me, yet still look at other women?

Many married women(especially young married women) wonder how their husbands can be attracted  to other women.   The reason is that most women are naturally monogamous in their sexual nature as God designed them to be, while men are naturally polygynous as God designed them.

I am thankful that God has used this ministry not only to encourage Christian wives about meeting their husband’s sexual needs – but it is also encouraging  to see women learning to respect how God designed man’s sexual nature very differently from their own.

I respond privately to emails like this all the time, but this woman unfortunately sent me a comment with no email address asking for help – so I hope she sees this post (and if she has any private questions – makes sure she includes her email that I can respond to).

She named herself “AdviceMePlease” and she wrote:

“I am glad I stumbled on this website. I learned some good points from your article how to respect my husband. My husband like it mentioned, is a visual creature too. I was unaware of guys being visual and it bothered me for a long time when he looked at other girls, or kept repeatedly watching the YouTube videos of his favorite actresses. I always wondered why he married me if he is into other women. (Silly me!) my question/problem is he keeps talking about the women he is impressed all the time with me and it makes me feel less. An intern at his work- there were days I had to hear first thing in the morning about her after we wake up, or first thing after he comes from work. Our pediatrician is very friendly with us and mostly him, and lately I hear about her atleast once a day. I tried not to get jealous but I am beginning to see that my husband likes girls who are funny, independent. He likes Asians alot :-p.”

This is my response to this Christian wife and other wives who may face this issue:

I am glad that you came to accept the visual and polygynous nature of your husband and the fact that is a natural and normal thing for him to look at and be attracted to other women.

But let me be clear – there is a difference between a man being visually wired and attracted to multiple women, and a man being flirtatious or promiscuous. I am not saying your husband is either of the last things I said – but I want to draw a very clear line there just so you know.  If you think he is being flirtatious, then you have every right as his wife to respectfully talk to him about that.  If you believe he is putting himself in positions with a woman at work(like working late all the time) or spending way too much alone time with her – then as his wife you have a right to be concerned and address that with him.

But if your only issue is that your husband looks at other women and is attracted to other women this is how I would address the issue with him. Tell your hubby how much you love him and respect him. Admit to him that you used to be bothered by the fact that he was attracted to other women and wondered why he married you if he was attracted to other women.

Then you realized that God made him different as man then you as a woman. You now understand how he can be attracted to other women, but still be attracted to you and he gives you something he is not giving any other woman – his love! But while you understand his nature, and understand he might talk about different women with the guys(which is totally normal), you would appreciate it if he did not talk about other women he is attracted to around you. It’s not that you think he is wrong for thinking they are beautiful, it is just that you as a woman don’t need to hear about other women he thinks are pretty.

I have had to have this conversation with some my male relatives when they talked about women around their young wives and the light bulb came on and they realized why they probably should not do that. Now some women are fine with this to a point – my wife is fine with me saying that I like certain actresses, but I would not tell her if I thought a woman at work was beautiful as that might make her worry(when she really has nothing to worry about).

I will close with this admonition to men that I have stated elsewhere on this site.  It is ok for you to look at and be attracted to women other than your wife.  While some women are ok with you talking about other women, many women are not.

Whatisgawking

It is not ok to gawk at women or do things that make your wife/mom/sister or other women around you uncomfortable.  It’s not ok to talk about women you think are hot or beautiful around your wife/mom/sister or other women who might be bothered by this.  Be a gentlemen, be discreet – keep the guy talk with the guys, and keep the looking to discreet glances.

 Picture Sources:

Photo #1 – Young man looking at young woman

Source: Courtney Carmody at https://www.flickr.com/photos/calamity_photography/4696806650/
Used under Creativecommons license 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Photo #2 Older man looking at younger woman

Source: Fernando Coelho at https://www.flickr.com/photos/fernando_pc/7475293196/in/photolist-coyQes-638Yew-91fesx-JL9tU-4gNPg5-ccC611-bBVUk9-2dSBge-7CMS2B-dfiwJ-757hu8-81hK5f-deRLgk-5fZ3jt-gBahp-sEkxt-58oiXu-9t2EEB-bcqwBK-89Hsfx-gRHKK5-5fBfZd-5SAcxf-eit8Kp-iuBrUp-598VGv-oppDcJ-emDEJY-79SHWi-dfP72b-6C7qS1-8a3mZ1-qLUSE4-7GwEqC-8aCsdj-7ZRFTU-qX6pSE-qLUSgP-5SRxc5-8FJXCK-2dSCuV-bUUaqf-6neeDc-73NTs6-c9gzi7-c9gyY3-c9gyk9-iGV3Rn-87zscr-c9gAjA

Used under Creativecommons license 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Stories of Sexual Denial in Marriage – Episode 1 Part 2

I received an update from our anonymous commenter from Episode 1:

Stories of Sexual Denial in Marriage – Episode 1

My wife recently took a vacation (alone) to meet an old friend.  I was glad to lend a hand and be with my daughter for the weekend.  We have so much fun together.  Before my wife left, I checked her “personal kit” and discovered that a bottle of personal lubricant was missing….but nothing else.  Additionally, she purchased some men’s jewelry and did her best to hide it from me.  I believe she took it with her.  That, and the personal lubricant, makes me question everything.  I no longer trust her.  I searched every square inch of the house for both items (and I mean EVERYWHERE).  None were found.  I’m really struggling with the next step.  While God hates divorce, would he honor my decision and permit me to remarry someday with the facts I have right now?  This is absolutely unbearable.

I received this and more information privately and believe based upon this evidence this Christian husband has enough evidence to confront his wife’s sexual immorality and then file for a divorce.  I recommended that he wait till she returns and then puts her “personal items” back in their place.

He is right that God hates divorce.  But God made divorce because we are sinners and he knows that.  This man’s wife has sinned against the covenant of their marriage.

The next steps will be difficult and very emotional – she may try and keep both him and her lover(I have seen this before) and he needs to hold the line and know he is doing is right.

I pray God will be with this Christian husband on the very difficult journey he must make.  I wish this type of story was rare, but it is not.  We are living in an evil times where people living by their feelings, rather than by the commitment they made to marriage.

 

8 steps to confront your wife’s sexual refusal

How should you as a husband handle it when your wife directly refuses to have sex without a valid reason? Is there anything a Christian husband can do about this?

This will be my last post specifically about sexuality in this series on “How to be godly husband”.

Christian Husbands – let me be crystal clear here. The situation I am addressing in this post is not your wife occasionally turning you down for sex (even with a bad attitude, as opposed to for health or other legitimate reasons). What I am addressing here is the wife who consistently and routinely denies her husband sexually simply because she does not need sex as much or she thinks she should not have to do it except when she is in the mood or she thinks her husband should have to earn sex with her by “putting her in the mood” by doing various things she expects or likes.

Let me also be clear to all the haters(this includes liberal Christians who reject the Biblical view of male headship in marriage, as well as the Biblical teaching of the right of sex, and responsibility of sex in marriage):

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 is how a husband can confront a wife who chronically or willfully denies his sexual rights in marriage without just cause(be it legitimate health or mental conditions).  He has the right, both under Biblical law, as well as under American law, to reason with his with his wife and try to convince her to willingly(even if grudgingly) yield herself to him, and thereby fulfilling one her most important duties in Christian marriage.

For all of the “Rape Accusers” out there, especially the ones that are hurling applications of domestic violence laws at me – I have written a special post just for you.  It is entitled “The Frustrated Feminist Wife“.

In two previous posts in this series I addressed these key issues:

In “Christian Husbands – You don’t pay for the milk when you own the cow!” we established this Biblical principle:

Neither the husband, nor the wife have to earn sex in marriage.

A wife cannot flatly refuse her husband, she may only ask for a delay (a raincheck) and then she needs to make good on that raincheck as soon as possible.

A husband has the right to confront his wife’s sexual refusal as a sin not only against him, but also against God.

In “Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not the mood?” I elaborated further on this subject of sexual refusal in marriage with these principles:

A husband ought not to feel guilty for having sex with his wife when she is not in the mood if she yields, even grudgingly.

A husband needs to use prayerful discernment to discover if her reasons for “not being in the mood” are for legitimate physical or mental health reasons or if the problem is wrong thinking and wrong attitude on the part of his wife. If her reasons are legitimate, then she needs to seek medical or psychological help as soon as possible.

Now in this post we will talk about how to handle the sexual refusal of a wife when it is because she has a wrong attitude and wrong thinking about marriage and sex.

But what about the husband refusing to have sex with his wife?

I have received several comments from people asking why I have not addressed the issue of a husband’s refusal to have sex – yes it is equally clear in these passages that he cannot refuse her. But I am saving that for my series “How to be a godly wife”, once I finish this series “How to be a godly husband”. Far too often in this discussion the knee jerk reaction is for women to say “but what about the man?” – Yes he has responsibilities too (and not just sexual ones), and I will be addressing these in this series.

Also some have tried to say “well if the wife has power over his body too, then she can decide to use that power to say she does not want his body having sex with her”. This is an absolutely ridiculous notion as it goes against the entire context of the passage. The entire point the Apostle Paul was making is that husbands and wives may NOT deprive one another of sex, unless they both mutually agree to a cessation of sex for a limited time.

What about Paul’s “concession” in I Corinthians 7:6?

Also some have tried to take the entire power out of this passage in I Corinthians 7 because of verse 6 where Paul writes “I say the following as a concession, not as a command.“ So did Paul just get done telling husbands and wives not to deprive one another sexually, only to say – “Well this is my opinion on how sex should be, but if you want to deny one another – go ahead”?

“Now in response to the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have relations with a woman.”But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. 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. 6 I say the following as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all people were just like me. But each has his own gift from God, one person in this way and another in that way.” – I Corinthians 7:1-7(HCSB)

When we look at Paul’s statement in context, his concession is not about husbands and wives not denying one another sexually.

His concession(or opinion) is about celibacy. He is prefacing the statement he is about to make as his opinion – that he wished everyone could be celibate like he was as there are many advantages to serving God as single person. But he realizes that celibacy is a gift God has only given to a chosen few, while the rest of men and women ought to marry.

What he is stating in this passage is, if you don’t have the gift of celibacy and you do get married, you have a solemn obligation to have sex with your spouse, you cannot deny them unless it is mutually agreed by both of you for a short period of time.

Know the battle you face, before you get into it

The advice I am about to give you Christian husband will require courage. The advice I am about to give you will require you to show your wife tough love.

Let me be clear on something, even if you do follow the steps below I give, this does not automatically mean you will get a change from your wife, or her repentance for her sexual immorality. And yes my friend it is sexually immoral for a wife (or husband for that matter) to deny their spouse sexually unless they have a legitimate physical or mental health grounds for doing so. Most people think of sexual immorality as only someone having sex outside marriage (pre-marital sex, adultery, incest, homosexual sex). But remember that when something is immoral, that means it is sin, and we know that sexual denial in marriage is sin, therefore it is accurate to call willful sexual denial in marriage an act of sexual immorality.

I had a Christian man email me once asking if he should tolerate an affair his wife was having for the sake of saving his marriage. He had confronted his wife about it, but she told him she could not give up her lover, and she told him she loved both he (her husband) and her lover and she needed time to consider both relationships.

This man was actually counseled by a Christian counselor to continue to tolerate his wife’s affair in order to win her back. The counselor invoked the story of the prophet Hosea whom God told to marry a promiscuous woman and then left him and he had to go and get her back. What this counselor misses is – this was not God’s pattern for marriage that men tolerate sexual immorality, it was simply done to illustrate the idolatry of Israel and that God was trying to bring her back to him. Israel never did come back and later God said he gave her a letter of divorce.

In the same way men are often counseled by Christian counselors, Pastors and marriage books to simply tolerate their wives sexual denial – which is just as immoral as if she were to commit adultery. They told to talk to their wives and pray for their wives – which is good advice. But then if their wife does not repent they are told they must simply learn to cope with their wife’s sexual immorality and there is nothing else they can or should do.

I am here to tell you there is something more you can and should do. You need to call out your wife’s sin for exactly what it is – sexual immorality.

Now that you know what you are fighting against you need to know what this fight might cost you. It may end with her walking out and possibly divorcing you. You must be prepared to do what is right, no matter what the cost.

First understand this – sacrificing yourself for your wife, as Christ sacrificed himself for the church does not mean toleration of this kind of sin on the part of your wife. Many counselors throw out the “husbands you just need to sacrifice yourself for your wife like Christ did the church” but they don’t tell you WHY Christ sacrificed himself for the Church.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.  He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.”

Ephesians 5:25-27 (HCSB)

Christ sacrificed himself for the Church, for us, not so we could just live any way we wanted to. He sacrificed himself to make us holy, to conform us to his likeness, and his Word.

As I said in previous posts – God wants sex in your marriage, your desire for sex in your marriage is not a sin, but rather it is a gift from God. My Pastor often says God put a desire in men and a command toward men that they be “intoxicated” or “ravished” by their wife’s body.

“Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” – Proverbs 5:19 (KJV)

Your desire for your wife is not the sin, but instead it is your wife’s sinful sexual refusal that must be confronted.

Before you take any steps to confront your wife’s sin of sexual refusal

Before you embark on this difficult journey, you need to first address any un-repented sin in your own life. You need to pray very hard and make sure you are doing the right thing. You need to confess any bitterness you have toward your wife over this issue before you can confront it. Perhaps there are some other wrong ways you handled it, things you have said or done that need to be confessed to God, and perhaps even to your wife if it directly affects her.

8 Steps to confronting your wife’s sexual refusal

UPDATE: 1/23/2016 – I have reordered what I believe the Biblical steps are to confront your wife’s sexual refusal based on my understanding of when a man should seek out a marriage counselor and bring the issue to his Pastor.

Biblically speaking the husband is the spiritual authority in his home and he has the Biblical obligation to FIRST attempt to discipline his wife as she is his responsibility.  Only when he has exhausted all forms of discipline and she remains defiant and divorce is looming should he approach a counselor to act as a witness to her sin.

Christ said this about confronting a brother(or sister) that has sinned against you:

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.” – Matthew 18:15-17 (HCSB)

Matthew 18 gives us the first two steps a Christian husband must take to confront his wife’s sexual refusal.

Step 1 – Rebuke her privately

Rebuke your wife’s sin to her in private. This assumes you have already on several occasions tried to speaking gently to her about this issue. You have tried time and time again to find out if there is anything you can help her with, and anything you can do different. This assumes you have ruled out health problems, and or other mental problems and she simply has a stubborn and willful attitude toward sex in marriage and she does not think she needs to change.

Step 2 – Stop taking her on dates or trips

If the brother or sister in Christ who sins against you is outside the authority of your home then you would go to witnesses next.  But since your wife, like your children, is under your direct authority – you have a Biblical obligation to discipline her first before taking this outside of your home. These next 4 steps use the two types of discipline that a husband has at his disposal.  Time and Money. For some women money means nothing, but almost all women highly value their husband’s time.

Stop taking your wife to her favorite restaurants. Stop taking her out to those movies she wants to see. Don’t take her on those weekend getaways she wants to go on. I am not saying to stop talking to your wife, or ignore your wife, as that is not an option for a Christian husband. But your wife does not have the RIGHT for you to take her on dates or trips – these things are a privilege that you may remove at any time.

Step 3 – No unnecessary household upgrades

Ordinarily, I am all for a husband funding things like new furniture for the house, or new paint for the walls. Wives will come to their husband’s for these and many other household things. What you need to do as a husband is, unless it is a true family need, and not just an upgrade to something – Do not allow it.

Step 4 – Stop doing the little extra things

You know those dinners you cook, or that vacuuming you do, or those things that really she should be doing for herself, but you have simply been trying to be nice and doing for her – STOP doing them. Stop giving her those nice back and shoulder massages she loves so much.

Step 5 – Remove her funding

This step may only work if you wife does not have her own income. Stop giving her pocket money. Change your bank account so her ATM card becomes worthless. Cancel your credit cards. If she does have a job, stop paying for anything in her name and make her pay for any credit that is in her name. The Bible only requires that you provide her with food, clothing and shelter. It does not say that food and clothing has to be the fancy kind she likes to get.

If your wife has not repented and changed her ways after you these first five steps, you are sure to have a very angry and defiant wife. The little bit of sex there was in your marriage is most likely completely gone.

At any one of these points, your wife could have threatened to leave, or has already already left. You may be separated or in divorce proceedings.

But I want you to understand something, it is not your responsibility to keep your wife in the marriage by any means necessary, and certainly not by giving in to her willful, rebellious and sinful behavior. The Apostle Paul writes:

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or a sister is not bound in such cases.” – I Corinthians 7:15

Remember that in Matthew, Christ told us to regard an unrepentant professed believer as an unbeliever. There is no sin here for you as a Christian husband to simply let her go, you are no longer bound and are free to marry another woman. My pastor told us that he had to deal with some rebellious times with his own wife, and his translation of “let him (or her) leave” was “there is the door” when she would threaten to leave.

But your wife may have stuck around betting that she can “wait you out” and thinking that eventually you will go back to leaving her alone about “all this sex stuff” and things can get back to the normal life she has come to love.

This is where we begin the final phase of confronting your wife’s sexual refusal.

Step 6 – Rebuke her before witnesses

If she is still defiant after you have tried all forms of Biblical discipline with her take her to a Christian marriage counselor so they can serve as a witness to her sinful defiance. But make it clear as you seek a counselor what your beliefs are to that counselor and that this is not about changing your beliefs – it is about having a witness to your wife’s sin.

Step 7 – Bring her before the Church

If bringing her to a counselor does not shake her defiance after you have tried all other forms of discipline then bring her to your Pastor and his wife to have her sin confronted by church authority.  If she is defiant to them then she needs to be expelled from the church.

What if none of these 7 steps work?

If your wife remains willfully defiant, yet she has not left you, it could be for a variety of reasons. She may not want to lose how she lives with you and she knows that after a divorce her lifestyle will be severely affected, and she does not want to deal with the consequences of divorce. Perhaps she may have some genuine care for you left as well as your children but she simply cannot see the error of her ways and will hold out indefinitely with the hope that one day you will fold and give her back the money, the dates, the trips, the house hold upgrades and she will not have been forced to change her ways.

But you have a final step you may take, one that you need to pray long and hard about before you do.

You have the option to divorce her for her sexual immorality.

“But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 5:32(HCSB)

Why bother with the first 7 steps if divorce is an option for sexual denial?

Many Christians would ask “If I have the right to divorce my wife for willful and chronic sexual denial, why bother with all these other steps?” The answer my friend, is that God wants us to fight for our wives and our marriage the way he fought for his marriage to Israel as a nation. Eventually he had to divorce Israel as nation, but he fought long and hard to bring her back to him, and we owe our wives and our marriages this fight.

But aren’t these steps a form of manipulation?

Those who oppose this type of confrontation will accuse me of advocating that men manipulate their wives into having sex with them more. But what these same people would fail to understand is, there is a big difference between manipulation, and discipline.

Manipulation is when someone who is an equal (like a friend, a coworker, a fellow student…etc.) or someone in a lower position (like a child, or employee, someone of lower rank) tries to make life difficult for their fellow equal or for their authority figure by doing certain actions in order to get them to do something they want. A union strike is a form of manipulation. A child throwing a temper tantrum or giving their parent the “silent treatment” is a form of manipulation. A wife withholding sex when she is angry at her husband, or giving him the “silent treatment” is also a form of manipulation. Sometimes manipulation is just pure retaliation.

Discipline, on the other hand is very different from manipulation. Discipline is performed by one who is in authority over one who is under their authority. It is action taken by an authority to attempt to modify the bad behavior of the subject of that authority so that they will behave correctly in the future. True Biblical discipline should never be done out of a spirit of retaliation or revenge.

And just to be clear – I am NOT advocating for husbands to beat their wives,smack them around, or physically abuse them in any way.  There are forms of discipline that are not physical.

Blatant willful sexual denial by a wife toward her husband is an act of rebellion against God’s authority first, and then the authority he has given her husband second. If a man denies his wife sexually, it is also an act of rebellion against God, because God has commanded him to give his body to his wife as she needs it (and I will address this in a separate post).

But a husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loves the Church

I have had many responses since originally posting this article, that these 8 steps are not the acts of a loving husband. Previously in this post I mentioned that God had to divorce the nation of Israel, picture as an adulterous and rebellious wife.  If it were true that a loving husband would never discipline his wife, then God was not a loving husband to Israel. When Israel, who is pictured as the wife of God, rebelled against God – he disciplined Israel and as he disciplined her he told her he was doing it out of love for her to bring her back to him.

Some might respond that in the end God had to eventually divorce Israel, and his discipline did not work – so maybe Christian husbands should not discipline their wives.

But God shows by his example that he would not and could not compromise his holiness even for the nation he loved. In the same way God does not want a Christian husband to sacrifice his faith to enable his wife’s sinful behavior, even if it results in divorce.  See this post that I wrote separately on this issue entitled “10 Ways to know if you are sacrificing your faith for your wife“.

Conclusion

Christian husband, you are not powerless to act against your wife’s sexual refusal. Also you need to remember that this about a lot more than sexual refusal. This is about your wife’s rebellion against a central tenet of marriage and her rebellion against the order God has established in marriage. But you must realize that this may be a long and costly battle. Your confrontation of your wife’s willful, sinful behavior may result in your marriage ending.

In our next post “10 Ways to know your wife” We will move out of this sexual arena and into getting to know your wife better.

Some might wonder why I addressed sexuality from a husband’s point of view first before I talk about “knowing your wife” and “honoring your wife” in following posts. The reason is because Biblically speaking “knowing your wife” on an intellectual, spiritual and emotional level was never a prerequisite to marriage in the Bible, it was something that often times came after the consummation (sex) in marriage.

Some have mistakenly compared the “Betrothal period” of the Bible to modern dating. The fact is betrothal and dating have nothing in common. In dating, the man and woman both choose to come together mutually and decide between themselves based on a physical, emotional and intellectual level if they want to get married (and often times they even have sex during this dating period).

Betrothal in Biblical times was nothing like dating today. Men did not convince a woman by romancing her to marry them as is the typical model of relationships and marriage in modern western culture. Either the parents of both the man and the woman would arrange their marriage, or the man would approach a woman’s father and ask for his daughter in marriage, and they would agree on a bride price (like Jacob asking Rachel’s father for her hand and he worked 7 years to buy her).

They were officially considered married at the Betrothal, and it took an actual bill of divorce to break a betrothal. But during the betrothal period the man was primarily concerned with being able to setup a house and be prepared to support his wife in marriage. When he was ready, he would come to claim his wife and they would consummate the marriage with sex. Many couples saw very little of each other if at all during this betrothal period.

A man really did not know his wife emotionally and intellectually until he “knew” her sexually.

That is why we will talk about “10 Ways to know your wife” and then “12 Ways to honor your wife” now that we have concluded our discussion of sexuality as it relates to being a godly husband.

What things light your spouse’s fire?

Fireplace_Burning

With the Christmas season upon us, I thought I would give some tune up advice on marriage (which we all need from time to time). What are the things that light your spouse’s fire? What things make them feel loved and make them more loving toward you? What things make them feel unloved? If someone asked you to list these things out – could you?

In two previous posts, I discussed “The twelve attributes of marital love” and “Is attraction required for marriage?” I built the case from a Biblical perspective that there are two kinds of love within marriage. But first let me give a reminder of the three main types of love found in the New Testament:

Family, or instinctual love (Storge) – Most human beings have an instinctual love toward their parents and their children. There are some exceptions as in the case where a parent abuses a child and that child may have no love left for their parent, but in most cases love happens instinctually between parents and children.

Emotional, or Friendship love (Philia) – This is love based on either romantic feelings between a man and woman, feelings of infatuation, or love that is based on common interests. This kind of love is almost 100% based on how much each person puts into the relationship, whether it is a same sex friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage.

Unconditional love (Agape) – This is a love that is based on a choice, a commitment to love someone no matter what they do. This is the kind of love we are told that God has toward his children (those who trust in his Son). This is highest form of love, because it not based on feelings, or anything that the recipient of this love has done.

Most people think there is only one kind of love in marriage, unconditional love. It is true that unconditional love (Agape love) is the only required loved in a marriage.

For most couples having a friendship and romantic love takes a lot of work, and often times it fades and needs to be rekindled.

If I were to sum up the articles I have written on this subject, it would be that we are required to show love toward our spouse in these ways:

Be kind to them, even when you don’t feel like being kind. This kindness includes having sex with them, even when you don’t feel like it (the Bible calls sex a required “kindness” in marriage).

Support them, even when you don’t feel like supporting them.

Sacrifice yourself for them, even when you don’t feel like it.

Protect them, and their honor, even when you don’t feel like it.

Forgive them with an unending forgiveness, even when you don’t feel like it.

Now one would think that if a spouse loved someone the way I just described, that Philia love (romantic friendship love), would naturally come from this. But the truth is, this is not always the case. Many Christian marriage books give couples false hope that these things alone will help to spark romantic and friendship love in a marriage, but this is simply not true.

More is required for Philia (romantic friendship love) in marriage

Philia (romantic friendship love) in a marriage is NOT an unconditional love. In fact it is a VERY conditional love. You get what you put into it, plain and simple.

The Bible says in the Galatians 6:7;

“…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Galatians 6:7(KJV)

The law of sowing and reaping very much applies to Philia love in marriage. You get what you put into it, if you want Philia love (romantic friendship love) you have to put something in to get it.

His and Her Fireplaces

FirePlacesHisHers

At the beginning of this post I showed an image of fire place. I believe that is a great way to describe Philia love in marriage (as opposed to Agape unconditional love). You and your spouse both have Philia love fireplaces:

In the man’s fire place I put respect and sex. In the woman’s fire place I put Talk and Time.

And yes I reference sex in the man’s fire place and not in the woman’s. I am NOT saying women don’t want sex or don’t have a desire for sex. But things like talking and time spent together, especially going on dates, is what lights most women’s fire and gives women the desire to have sex.

There are many other types of logs a man and woman may need besides these two things, but I can tell you that for the vast majority of men and women, these are the bare minimum requirements to stoke the fires of friendship and romance in a marriage.

Without these things, don’t be surprised if your relationship grows stale and cold.

So for guys, if you are wondering why its been a long time since your wife wore that special lingerie for you, or why she has been crabby and disrespectful toward you, first ask yourself when the last time you sat down and really talked with your wife. When was the last time you took her out on a date?

For the gals, if you husband has not taken you out in a while, or perhaps he is not spending much time talking to you – as yourself when was the last time you rocked his world in the bedroom? Or maybe you have been having a disrespectful attitude toward him?

An astute observer who knows the Scriptures well might point out a key issue here.  Wives are commanded to respect their husbands in the Scriptures. Wives are also commanded to have sex with their husbands in the Scripture.

So in essence this answers the age old question about sex and romance – it is the chicken and egg question. Which comes first, sex or romance? Since sex is required, and romance is not this tells us which one comes first.

Ladies – most men are simple creatures, you show a man respect, and give him the gift of your body that God has blessed him with, and most men will crawl over hot coals to show you how much they love you. It really is that simple.

Ways the fire goes out

The three main ways that His or Her love fire place go out are:

Neglect – just not doing anything. It’s not that you did anything unkind toward your spouse. It’s just that you have not put any new wood into their fireplace lately.

Unkindness – Criticism in a marriage or degrading your spouse will in any way is like taking a bucket of water over to their fire place and pouring it on it.

Disagreements – Sometimes you feel like you need to say something to your spouse. You know it may end in a disagreement, or heated discussion. Just realize when you do this you might be taking a bucket of water and pouring it on their fire. So choose your battles wisely, always ask yourself – “is it worth it?” Many a couple routinely knock out each other’s fireplaces with disagreements that did not need to be said.

But let me clarify something on this disagreement section. Sometimes a spouse must speak up, knowing that it will upset the other spouse. There has been many a time that I voiced a concern with my wife, knowing it might cost me something for a little a while. If this is done for the right reasons, and a Godly purpose, you must do this.

But then realize that you need to come back and rekindle the fires of Philia love again in that spouse.

Conclusion

While Philia (friendship romantic) love is never commanded in marriage (as opposed to Agape love which is), it is something worth striving for. It definitely makes it much easier to love your spouse with an Agape love, when you have a Philia love as well.

Also I believe that while God does not specifically command Philia (friendship romantic) love in marriage, he wants us to do everything with all our might. He wants us to do everything to the best of our ability, to enjoy being with that person he has placed us with in marriage.

So if you don’t know what lights your spouse’s fire – then find out today! Talk to them and strive for your marriage to be the best it can be, not merely meeting the minimum requirements.

Feel free to comment and share some things that you know make your spouse feel loved and stoke the flames of romance in your marriage.

Is attraction required for marriage?

Just_a_touch_is_all_I_need

There are typically three things that most people in the western world would believe are required for marriage:

  1. Physical attraction
  2. Love(feelings of love)
  3. A willingness to make a serious commitment

From a Christian perspective (as well as many other non-western and non-Christian perspectives) only a commitment to the institution of marriage is required.

For thousands of years, and even today there are many outside of western nations that have marriages arranged by their parents. Often times they meet their spouse only a week or two ahead of when they are married. In western culture many despise these types of marriages as dull or unemotional. But if you talk to these couples, they often have much stronger marriages than we do in the west, and they have a tiny fraction of our divorce rates here in the United States.

I am not saying that looking to be attracted to a person is wrong. I wanted to be attracted to my wife before I married her and I definitely was. I also had feelings of love and attachment to her before I proposed. But in God’s eyes, the only thing that was required of her and I was a commitment before God to the covenant of marriage, anything more than that was simply icing on the marriage cake.

The reason I say this is, for many marriages the attraction, as well as the feelings of love may fade over time. God never expects us to keep our physical attraction to our spouse, or to keep our feelings of love to our spouse.

But someone might say – “Wait a minute! The Bible commands in many places that husbands and wives are to love one another”. That is absolutely a true statement. But the love the Bible is describing is love that is made up of actions, not feelings.

I am not commanded to feel an emotional attachment to my wife, I am commanded to take actions of love toward my wife. I wrote about the 12 attributes of Biblical marital love and you can read them here.

I am not commanded to feel attracted to my wife either, only to love her with the actions of love God has defined for a husband and wife.

Let me explain more of what I am saying by defining the sources of love.

The three sources of Love

Family, or instinctual love(Storge) – Most human beings have an instinctual love toward their parents and their children. There are some exceptions as in the case where a parent abuses a child and that child may have no love left for their parent, but in most cases love happens instinctually between parents and children.

Emotional, or Friendship love(Philia) – This is love based on either romantic feelings between a man and woman, feelings of infatuation, or love that is based on common interests. This kind of love is almost 100% based on how much each person puts into the relationship, whether it is a same sex friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage.

Unconditional love(Agape) – This is a love that is based on a choice, a commitment to love someone no matter what they do. This is the kind of love we are told that God has toward his children (those who trust in his Son). This is highest form of love, because it not based on feelings, or anything that the recipient of this love has done.

God commands husbands and wives to have an unconditional love(Agape) toward one another in the covenant of marriage.

What this means on a practical level is, I am supposed to be patient and kind to my wife no matter what she does. My wife is supposed to protect my reputation and honor me, and I her, regardless of whether we feel an emotional attachment to one another, or attraction to one another.

Marital love is not earned, but emotional love(philia) and attraction are earned

I say everything I have said up to this point to present this extremely important principle for those who are engaged, newlyweds or couples that have been married for a long time.

Many people, both men and women, think that part of unconditional love is the fact that their mate is required to unconditionally feel an emotional attachment to them and also be attracted to them no matter what they do.

You cannot control your emotional attachments, or you whom you are attracted to, you can only control what you do with those feelings and attractions.

But I want my spouse to feel an emotional attachment to me and be attracted to me!

You want your spouse to be attracted to you? You want your spouse to miss you when you are gone and truly want to be around you, not just out of a sense of duty, but also because of how they feel about you?

Make yourself attractive, give them a reason to feel love for you, not just show love out of duty. Make them miss you because of how wonderful you are to be around.

Things that erode attraction and emotional attachment between a husband and wife

Criticism is perhaps the greatest killer of attraction. Every critical word that comes out of your mouth toward your spouse erodes at their attraction to you. Any time your correct your spouse, or tell them they are wrong, or doing something wrong you erode the attraction they have to you.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times we need to speak the truth in love to our spouses about wrong things they have done. But we should be extremely choosy about when we do this.

Moodiness is another killer of attraction and emotional love as well. Maybe you don’t criticize your spouse much, but you have a frown on your face half of the time. Happiness and contentment are attractive, moodiness and negativity are very unattractive.

Complaining never builds attraction. Yes we all complain at times, but if we have a constantly complaining spirit, this is not an attractive quality. You may not be criticizing or complaining about your spouse, but simply the act of complaining all the time is very unattractive.

Physical appearance – yes physical appearance still matters after you get married, not just before you get married.

Guys – are you shaving and showering on a regular basis? Did you forget where your deodorant or cologne are? If you are not caring for your physical appearance, this can erode attraction and emotional attachment.

Ladies – do you spend most of your time in sweats and tea shirts? Do you ever wear sexy clothes and care about your appearance the way you did when you were dating? Did you forget where your perfume was? If you are not caring for your physical appearance, this can erode attraction and emotional attachment.

But I have tried all these things, but still my spouse is unresponsive!

This is a topic that requires its own post which hopefully I will have something on shortly. For now I will just say it is possible to be married to a spouse that is emotionally stinted (and yes this applies to both men and women). It is also possible to be married to a person that is so self-absorbed, or so overwhelmed by their own emotional issues(such as anger, depression, moodiness, health issues, job issues) that no matter what you do to cultivate attraction and emotional love they will never or rarely respond in a meaningful way. I will address this situation in a separate post.

Conclusion

Each man and woman are different in what they consider to be attractive and what builds emotional attachment for them. You don’t have to earn your spouse’s love in the unconditional, commitment sense of the word. God expects that no matter what, and that keeps marriages together.

But the conditional love, the emotional love,the attraction love, the love that is based on actions and appearance makes marriage much more than a duty, it makes marriage fun and enjoyable.

So you if you want your spouse to love you in the emotional sense, to be attracted to you and to miss you when you are not together – it is all up to you! Ask yourself what you have done and what you are doing to build that attraction and emotional connection. It won’t just happen, it requires intentional action.

The 12 required attributes of marital love

OneFlesh

Before I get into the 12 required attributes of marital love, I want to talk about the two types of love which can exist within marriage. Both types of love are good to have in a marriage, but only one can form the lasting foundation for marriage, while the other may come and go.

The Bible speaks of three types of love:

Family, or instinctual love(Storge) – Most human beings have an instinctual love toward their parents and their children. There are some exceptions as in the case where a parent abuses a child and that child may have no love left for their parent, but in most cases love happens instinctually between parents and children.

Emotional, or Friendship love(Philia) – This is love based on either romantic feelings between a man and woman, feelings of infatuation, or love that is based on common interests. This kind of love is almost 100% based on how much each person puts into the relationship, whether it is a same sex friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage.

Unconditional love(Agape) – This is a love that is based on a choice, a commitment to love someone no matter what they do. This is the kind of love we are told that God has toward his children (those who trust in his Son). This is highest form of love, because it not based on feelings, or anything that the recipient of this love has done.

In the context of marriage, when you made your wedding vows and vowed to love your spouse in good times and in bad, in sickness and health, till death do you part – you were vowing to love them with Agape love(unconditional love, apart from feelings). You probably were motivated to vow Agape love to them out of the Philia love you had which is based on feelings of friendship and romance.

Philia love is not bad, but it can become bad if that is the only foundation for a marriage, for it will not always be there. It comes and goes. But Agape is always there, because it is not based on feelings, but a commitment made to God.

The foundation of marital love is not Philia (friendship or romantic) love

I say all this as to say that the 12 attributes of marital love I am going to talk about are based in Agape love(unconditional love), and not feelings. We do things whether our spouse makes us feel loved or not. We do these things whether we are fond of our spouse at a given moment or not.

Biblically speaking marriage is defined as the union of a man and woman who make a covenant before God to fulfill their God given duties to one another in marriage. One of the duties God calls them to is to have marital love toward one another. In many ways marital love is not much different than any other love we should have for our friends, family or for the general population of the world around us. After sharing this list though, I will point out some of the features that distinguish marital love from all other types of love.

BIBLICAL MARITAL AGAPE LOVE IS…

  1. GIVING my body to my spouse to meet their sexual needs.
  2. PATIENCE toward my spouse in regard to their faults.
  3. KINDNESS toward my spouse in words and actions. It is kindness in caring for the physical needs of my spouse whether in taking care of them when they are sick, making sure they are feed, or meeting their sexual needs.
  4. SACRIFICING my own well-being for the sake of my spouse’s well-being.
  5. HONORING my spouse’s God given gender role in our marriage.
  6. FORGIVING my spouse for the offenses they commit against me.
  7. TRUTHFUL with my spouse. This does not mean brutal honesty – you know the old line “do I look fat in this dress?”. It does not mean we have to say every thought that comes into our mind, or how we feel about every given situation.  But what it does mean is not telling lies to hide our sin from our spouse. It also means that sometimes we have to do as the Bible says and “speak the truth in love” to our spouse when we believe they are acting sinfully, as love does not rejoice in evil.
  8. PROTECTING my spouse’s person and reputation.
  9. TRUSTING that my spouse has my best interests at heart and in the absence of evidence to the contrary believing what my spouse tells me about events that may have occurred.
  10. HOPING in my spouse’s abilities, even when they seem to lack in a certain area. It always keeps hope that they will succeed or that they will improve. This is an encouraging type of hope that encourages our spouse in whatever they set out to do.
  11. ENDURING through arguments or disagreements, health problems and physical changes to mine or my spouse’s body. It endures through job loss, economic status changes or changes in housing.
  12. CONSTANT, because it is based on a conscious life choice, and not upon my feelings towards my spouse at any given moment.

The twelve actions of marital love I have just stated are all clearly supported in the Scriptures I will show below.

Today we have all kinds of marriage books, both Christian and non-Christian alike trying to define what Biblical love is, especially as it relates to marriage. While some of them point to these very same passages I will reference, often times they either leave out parts of the Biblical definition of marital love, or more often than not they add a lot of things the Bible does not.

I think that any of us reading this list, if we are honest with ourselves will see it as very convicting. We will be convicted even more so when we read it from the very Word of God. I can see my own failures to live up to this high standard God has for marital love.

But God understands we are sinful beings and that we are but dust. What he asks of me and you is that we aspire to these principles, to grow and better ourselves according to standard he has set, not the standards of our ungodly world. When we fail to meet these standards, he asks us to humble ourselves, and ask his forgiveness, as well as our spouse if we have failed them in any of these principles.

One other thing I want to mention, I am not saying the above list is an exhaustive list of all the Biblical duties involved in marriage, because it is not. This is the Biblical definition of the love we are required to have, love as a set of attitudes and actions that should flow through all the other duties of marriage that I have not mentioned here.

Biblical references that form the foundation for the twelve actions of marital love

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails…

I Corinthians 13:4-8(NIV)

 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time…

I Corinthians 7:3-5(NIV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5:25-33(KJV)

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

I Peter 3:7(KJV)

So what distinguishes marital love from other types of love?

If you were to look at many of the attributes of love I gave – especially the ones based on I Corinthians 13:4-8 you could easily see that many of these attributes apply to other relationships besides marriage.  They could apply to friendships or even the parent-child relationship.  But here I am trying to apply I Corinthians 13:4-8, a passage not specifically about marital love, to marriage because God calls for agape love in marriage.

“34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-39(NIV)

The reason I bring up Matthew 22, is because the concept of a man loving his wife as he loves himself is not new, or even exclusive to marital love. As Christians, we are to love all people around us, as we love ourselves.

The key in understanding the distinctiveness of marital love is found in Ephesians chapter 5.

“29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”

There are two key words in verse 29 that help us begin to distinguish the love God want’s between a husband and wife, and all other types of love. The Greek word Ektrepho here translated in English as “nourish” here has to do with “feeding to bring to maturity”.   The second Greek word Thalpo translated as “cherisheth” originally referred to a mother bird “keeping warm” her eggs as she sat on them. This Greek word later came to mean “foster with tender care”, but it has the same idea.

So in its most literal sense Ephesians 5:29 is saying that just as mother bird warms her eggs and then feeds her babies and brings them to maturity this is like what Christ does for his church in caring for her physical and spiritual needs and bringing her to maturity.

When taken in the complete context of Ephesians 5, just as Christ brings the church to spiritual maturity and tenderly cares for her spiritual and physical needs, so too husbands are to care for the physical and spiritual needs of their wives and bring them to spiritual maturity.

But this is only the first part of the distinctiveness of marital love found in Ephesians 5, the most profound distinctive characteristic of marital love is found in verse 31:

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

The physical union of a man to his wife, the sexual union, is the most distinguishing characteristic of marital love. This is why often times, sex is referred to as the “the act of marriage”.

Think about it – go through all twelve points I list above and you could have all but one of those with a friend who is the same sex. Even the honoring portion, while it would apply differently in marriage, than in friendship, can also apply to friendship.

The one point that exists only within marital love is the giving of the body that takes place between a husband and a wife within marriage.

But just as with loving our neighbor as our self, so too the “one flesh” proposition can occur outside of marriage:

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. “

I Corinthians 6:16(KJV)

Right now I realize some of you are scratching your heads. How can “one flesh” occur in marriage and also outside of marriage between a man and a prostitute?

The answer is simple – “one flesh” in it’s most literal sense refers to one thing that both a man and his wife can do, and a man a prostitute can do, and that is have sexual intercourse.  Now does the Bible’s “one flesh” principle extend beyond the physical act of sexual relations? I believe the answer is yes according to the words of Christ.

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Matthew 19:4-6 (KJV)

The key phrase in Christ’s statement on marriage is “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh”.  Once a man and woman marry – God looks at them as single unit that should never be separated by man aside for a few exceptions that God gives.

In marriage a man and woman should be united on all three levels – spiritually, emotionally and physically. 

Now all Christians and even many non-Christians would agree with the statement I just said above about the need for a husband and wife to be united on all these levels in marriage.  But the disagreement comes in HOW a man and woman are to be united in these three ways.

How can a man and woman truly be one in marriage?

We see it all the time with engaged couples or newly weds.  They seem to be so united and so in sync with one another. They often finish each others sentences and they rarely if ever fight. But for anyone who has been married for long length of time we can all tell you that the unity of marriage when the relationship is new is based on one thing and one thing alone folks – good old fashion hormones.

It is kind of humorous to see this with newlyweds.  Often times newlyweds are insistent that their unity will never change – and that it will be exactly as it is when their marriage is new for the rest of the marriage. I have to hold back the chuckles every time I hear a newlywed couple say this with such sincerity in their hearts.  I said this before and I will say it again – new love between a man and a woman is an emotionally and hormonally driven love which produces a type of temporary insanity especially in men.

After a time whether it be six months or a year this hormonally based love eventually comes to an end and the real mature and lasting love in marriage can begin to be built.

The world and even many Christian teachers today will tell you that unity and oneness in marriage comes down to one word and that word is compromise.  They say a husband and wife must talk out each life issue whether it be about what church the couple will attend, their career ambitions, how they will raise their children, finances or other important areas of life and compromise on their differences and come to a consensus.  There is no leader and no follower in this type of union, but it is instead a partnership of equals.

The Bible however presents a very different way in which a husband and a wife are to become one in marriage.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:23-24 (KJV)

In Biblical marriage the way a man and wife become one is the same way the church becomes one with Christ.  He leads and she follows. As Church is mold itself around the wishes and leadership of Christ so too a wife is to mold herself to the wishes and leading of her husband.

So while the world and many Christian teachers today teach that compromise is the key to unity and oneness in marriage – the Bible teaches that conformity rather than compromise is the key to oneness in marriage.  In Christian marriage – the man conforms his will to God’s will and the wife conforms her will to her husband’s will.

Sadly many Christian marriages today are built on compromise rather than conformity and the truth is that men and women are equally to blame for this sad state of affairs. Women are to blame because they emotionally badger their husbands into compromising with them on important affairs of the home even when he believes God would have their family do things differently.  Men on the other hand are to blame for not standing up as men of God and choosing to conform to the will of God rather than compromise what they know to be right for the sake of peace with their wives.

I am not saying that a husband cannot hear advice from his wife and take it.  Or that marriage erases a woman’s unique identity because it does not.  God made all of us as individuals unique and he even made each one of his local churches unique.  No two people or two churches are exactly alike. But when it comes to the important matters of life especially in the areas of faith, child rearing and teaching and finances a wife is to mold herself to the pattern of her husband.  I will talk more about the Biblical concept of marital unity in another post.

Summary of what Biblical Marital Love is

Just like other types of Biblical love, the truest form of love is one that is based on choice and actions, not on feelings and instincts.

I don’t just have to be kind to my wife when I feel like it, I should be kind to my wife even when I don’t feel like it.  My wife needs to be patient with me and trust me even when she does not feel like being patient with me and trusting me.

The Biblical marital love that husbands and wives are supposed to have, and the love we are to have toward friends, family and even strangers have many common attributes.

But Biblical marital love is distinct from all other loves in that it calls on a husband and wife to model their love for one another after the love between Christ and his church. The wife places her dependence upon her husband for her nourishment and protection in the same way that the Church places her dependence on Christ for her nourishment and protection.

The husband should care for the spiritual and physical needs of his wife, and tenderly care for and protect her the way Christ does the Church.

The husband and wife should have sex regularly and often, not only to meet one another’s physical needs and avoid temptation, but they must also realize that their physical union in sex is the most distinctive and most defining act of marital love.

One last note I want to add here about sexuality in marriage. Just like all of the other points of marital love, sexual relations in marriage should never be dependent on feelings at any given time. The Bible is crystal clear that they are to be regular and often, except for a short time by mutual consent.

While it is nice to do things for our spouse (whether it is husbands for wives, or wives for husbands), sex in marriage should never EVER have to be earned. The moment a husband and wife say “I do” it becomes mandatory.

This is not always a husband wanting from a wife thing either. I know of a newly wed married couple, a young couple, where the husband would rather play video games or do things with his friends than have sex with his wife and this should never be the case. The Bible sees sex as the distinctive symbol of the marriage relationship, and it is to happen regularly and often, whether the husband or wife feels like it.

Some might say this feels like a very dry and unemotional type of love the Bible calls us to, but the reality is God knows something we often forget. When you do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it, often times the feelings will follow sooner or later. But on the flip side, if you only practice these actions required for marital love when feel like it, the love in your marriage will soon die.  Feelings don’t last, commitments and choices can and do last.

And finally while the sexual part of the one flesh relationship is an indispensable part of marriage a husband and wife should be united not only in physical relations but also spiritually and emotionally and we previously mentioned. This unity in marriage is accomplished not by compromise between a husband and wife, but rather by conformity of the husband to the will of God and the conformity of the wife to the will of her husband.

This post was edited and updated with new content(the sections about unity and oneness in marriage) on 8/2/2016.