What should a Christian wife do when her husband routinely turns down her sexual advances? Is there anything Biblically speaking that a wife can do in this situation? Does God expect Christian wives to stay in sexless marriages?
Christian Wives – I want to be as clear here as I was when addressing this subject with Christian husbands. The situation I am addressing in this article is not your husband 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 husband who consistently and routinely denies his wife sexually simply because he does not need sex as much or he thinks he should not have to do it except when he is in the mood or he thinks his wife should have to earn sex with him by “putting him in the mood” by doing various things he expects or likes. You prayed about it for years but nothing has changed and your husband refuses to meet the obligations of his marital covenant.
Again this is about sexual denial on the husband’s part – not lack of sexual initiation. For reasons your husband may not be pursing you sexually see my post “12 Reasons your husband may NOT want to have sex with you”. For many women they interpret their husband’s lack of sexual pursuit as sexual denial but this is not the case. In fact it is very common in many marriages where the couple is older that the man may not pursue sex as much and the woman actually pursues it more – so they switch roles (as in who is doing the chasing). To this I would say that a man still needs to pursue his wife sexually even as he ages, just as a woman should pursue her husband even when her desire is not there. Now the percentage of who pursues who more might change – but neither spouse should feel like they are the only ones that ever want sex.
So now that we have established what scenario these steps are addressing – let’s now establish the right of a woman to have sex with her husband.
A woman has the right to have sex with her husband, and the husband has a duty to have sex with his wife
Let me say that first and foremost God give a woman the right to initiate and have sex with her husband.
“10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10-11 (KJV)
This passage when taken in context was talking about if a man decided to take another wife (exercise his right to polygamy) he must still provide food, clothing (shelter is implied as well) and sex (this is conjugal rights). If a man took another wife and neglected his first wife sexually her family members or other town elders could approach the man and tell him to release this neglected wife (give her a bill of divorce). But it provides though a general moral principle – that a wife has the right to have sexual relations with her husband in marriage.
God reiterates this command that a wife has the right to initiate sex and have sex with her husband in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 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.” – I Corinthians 7:3-4 (KJV)
Throughout the Bible the husband is consistently seen as the head of the wife, as the owner of the wife and we see here that even though he is her head and owner – she has certain rights as his wife that he may not deny and sex is one them.
So if a wife has the right to have sex with her husband – why don’t women (or men for that matter) want to talk about issue? We will discuss this next.
Why don’t women want to talk about sexual denial from their husbands?
There are two common reasons why Christian wives won’t are embarrassed to bring up this subject – either with their husbands or women from their churches, or even to their pastors.
The first reason is that sadly many Christian women were raised by their parents, or taught in the churches growing up that “only dirty women want sex”. Unfortunately the Church over its history has been complicit in this teaching as the Church fathers quickly fell into the error that sex was “dirty” and “fleshly” not long after the Apostles died.
The second reason is that many women feel to bring up this subject would be a bad reflection on them. “What husband would not want to have sex with wife? Men always want sex right?” They think it reflects badly on their appearance. “Perhaps he no longer finds me attractive” – a Christian wife might reason.
But the truth is neither one of these reasons should stop a woman bringing this issue up and confronting it when it occurs in her marriage.
On the issue of appearance and hygiene – these things are important for both a man and a woman. Both a husband and a wife should do their best to keep their bodies healthy and clean and available for sexual relations on a regular basis. If the man has problems with weight or ED (erectile dysfunction) it is his job to seek medical help so that he can sexually please his wife.
So once a Christian wife understands that sex with her husband is a right in marriage, and she overcomes her inhibitions to talking about this issue – how should she confront this issue in her marriage?
Before you can confront you husband’s sexual refusal you must know and accept your position
The Bible is not a “unisex” book. Yes God loves men and women equally – and a woman is no less human being than a man is. But God created men and women with different purposes and roles and this is seen throughout the Scriptures. So when we come to how a wife confronts sexual refusal from her husband and how a man confronts sexual refusal from his wife the steps will look different.
The biggest reason the steps are different is because a wife is not her husband’s authority. She is not spiritually responsible for him as he is for her. While his role is to love her by leading her, providing for her, protecting her and knowing her – her role is to submit to him, to serve him and to gently and respectfully share her wisdom with him(as the Proverbs 31 wife does).
I have written on this previously that Christian marriage is a type of Master/Servant relationship – but it is not a typical Master/Servant relationship in that a wife has many more rights than a servant, and this is a much more intimate Master/Servant relationship in that a husband is commanded to “know” his wife.
But in the context of a master servant relationship – the Bible tells us that servants have the right to bring grievances to their masters:
“If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?” – Job 31:13-15 (KJV)
Job tells us that his servants made in the womb – i.e. just as human as he was. You as a human being, and even more so as your husband’s wife have certain rights and when you believe he has violated those rights you have a right bring those grievances before him.
But you must always be respectful of your husband’s position and his authority over you when you bring your grievances before him.
Before you take any steps to confront your husband’s sin of sexual refusal check yourself first
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 husband 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 husband if it directly affects him.
A common issue that women who are experiencing sexual refusal face is – they were the ones refusing their husbands earlier in their marriage. What happens is because of many years of sexual refusal on the part of his wife, a man simply stops pursing his wife sexually. Then one day the wife wakes up and realizes they have not had sex in months or even a year or more and she pursues him at which point he turns her down. Now is the husband right to do this? Absolutely not. But the wife must realize her part in this and confess her sin of sexual refusal before she can confront her husband’s sin of sexual refusal.
4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal
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 wife must take to confront his husband’s sexual refusal.
Step 1 – Rebuke him privately
Rebuke your husband’s sin to him in private. A wife’s rebuke will look slightly different than a husband’s rebuke of his wife’s sinful behavior. A husband can speak “with authority” to his wife, as one under his authority. But a wife must remember her husband is her authority. You as a wife can bring your grievance to your husband in a respectful manner, you can plead with him to change his sinful pattern of sexual denial. This assumes you have already on several occasions tried to speaking gently to him about this issue. You have tried time and time again to find out if there is anything you can help him with, and anything you can do different. This assumes you have ruled out health problems, and or other mental problems and he simply has a stubborn and willful attitude toward sex in marriage and he does not think he needs to change.
Step 2 – Rebuke him before witnesses
If he is still defiant after rebuking him, privately ask him to go to a Christian marriage counselor, or maybe even a sex therapist if he is willing to go.
Step 3 – Bring him before the Church
If he will not listen to counselors, or refuses to go to counseling then bring him to your Pastor and his wife. If he will not listen even to them then he has chosen to act like an unbeliever, and now he will be treated as such.
Step 4 – Divorce your husband for the sin of sexual denial
Unlike a husband who has authority over his wife, a wife does not have authority over her husband. So unlike a husband in the same situation with his wife – a wife cannot stop going out with her husband on dates or stop doing her house hold duties or following his wishes. Your only option as a wife after confronting him with the Church is divorce.
But according to Exodus 21:10-11 you have the right to be freed from this marriage(and thus his authority) for his willful sexual denial.
“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10 (KJV)
Under the theocracy of Israel – a husband was pressured by male relatives or elders of the town to give his wife a bill of divorce if he was neglecting her in any of these areas. Our government allows women to file this bill of divorce for themselves and there is no problem with this scripturally as the woman is divorcing her wife on Biblical grounds.