Does the Bible allow a husband to spank his wife?

“My husband spanked me and then grounded me because I wanted a break after having 6 children in the first 5 years of our marriage. Do I have Biblical grounds to divorce him for treating me like a child instead of his wife?” This was part of an email I received from a young Christian woman name Kathy.

The emotional response that most non-Christian Americans and even many Christian Americans would have to this woman’s question of divorce would be a resounding YES! No thought should be needed on her part, she should just pack her bags and leave. Not too long ago I would have considered myself in this crowd had the same reaction without ever giving it a second thought.

The reason for this knee jerk reaction to wife spanking is twofold.

The first is because in our modern culture we automatically associate the physical punishing of an adult (whether male or female) with physical abuse.  Most people cannot conceive of any type of physical punishment toward an adult that would not be abuse.

The second reason many would have a knee jerk reaction to this takes both the spanking and grounding into account.  The worst sin that can be committed in our culture is for a man to do anything that could even be remotely conceived as him acting like a father figure to his wife. Words like “incestuous” and “infantilizing” are raised if a man attempts to teach or discipline his wife.  The common phrase “You are not my father” that many American women use with their husbands when their husbands exercise authority over them comes to mind. We will see later in this piece that Kathy uses that language toward her husband.

Wife spanking may be wrong, but we need to look at it from a calm and Biblical perspective to discover why it is wrong if in fact it is wrong. But then we have some secondary questions posed by Kathy.  Can a Christian woman divorce her husband for spanking her even it is wrong? Can a Christian woman be forced to constantly be pregnant by her husband?

Last month I wrote a post entitled “Do Christian wives have to submit to bondage and sadomasochism requests from their husbands?” and I made my position clear there that I believe bondage violates the Biblical principle of free will that God has given to us all.  He always presents us with a choice and then we face the consequences of our choices but he never removes our ability to choose in this life.

I continued that same theme in my last post “Is it wrong for my Christian husband to make me wear a chastity belt?” There again in that post I stated that a husband forcing his wife to wear a chastity belt violates the Biblical principle that God has created mankind(men and women both) with free will.

Honestly I was so ready to move out of these issues of discipline into the topic of jealousy which will lead me to a much larger topic I wanted to cover in more detail(it is still a secret but I have spoken on it briefly before).

But God seems to be pulling me back into this subject of men disciplining their wives with emails I am receiving that I just can’t ignore and I feel I must address another discipline practice here.

In the past I have written many positive articles articulating how husbands not only have the right, but they have the duty to confront wrong behavior in their wives just as they have both the right and the duty to confront wrong behavior in their children.

I call this confronting of wrong by husbands toward their wives discipline. Why do I call it discipline? Because that is exactly what it is.  It is one thing for equals to confront wrong doing in each other. If you tell your friend you think they are wrong that is not discipline – it might be rebuke or it might be correction but it is not discipline.   But when a manager tells his employee they are wrong, or a parent tells their child they are wrong and yes even when a husband corrects or rebukes his wife this is also a form of discipline.

I have said before that I think the discipline of a child and the discipline of a wife while sharing some similarities should not be identical and I think this issue of wife spanking really will allow me to show this distinction between the two types of discipline.

God has really lead me, because of this email from Kathy, to have to really work out my beliefs about this uncomfortable and controversial top of wife spanking from a Biblical perspective. But before I do that let me share Kathy’s complete story.

Kathy’s story

“My husband spanked me and then grounded me because I wanted a break after having 6 children in the first 5 years of our marriage. Do I have Biblical grounds to divorce him for treating me like a child instead of his wife?

I’m a 26 year old female and married 5 years ago to a wonderful Christian man- the problem is we have 6 children under the age of 5 which as you can imagine is quite tiresome as I’m at home looking after them all day and then I need to prepare for my husband’s return from work and by the time I’ve finished settling the kids and cleaning up after dinner I’m just totally exhausted. My husband seems to think I should be sexually available to him whenever he touches me but for the past few months I’m just so tired- so tired in fact I went to my doctor and got a prescription for birth control pills to prevent another pregnancy- I didn’t tell my husband because I know he feels it’s his choice whether I am pregnant or not.

He had begun to get suspicious as to why I’m not pregnant again as we never had a problem before and our youngest is now 6 months old and we usually have three months between delivery and subsequent pregnancies, I had begun to avoid him sexually and there was a pretty tense atmosphere between us until it all exploded after a Sunday service a few weeks back when my parents in Law took the kids for the afternoon and my husband said he wanted us to spend time together alone which I dreaded.

Anyway to cut a long story short he took me home and started to quote scripture about how I was being disrespectful and disobedient, he said in his 37 years on earth he never witnessed a woman treating her husband with the disregard I was treating him except on one occasion when his mother back answered his father, he then told me having spoken to his father about our situation and after much prayer he felt it was time to pull me back into line, he then proceeded to spank my behind with his hand while I screamed and begged him not to- he stopped and I thought it was over but he then removed his belt and gave me 20 more lashes which he said were for the birth control pills he had found.

He then told me how much he loved me and wanted to save our marriage but for the moment he has forbade me to leave the house unless accompanied by one of his parents.

Do I have grounds for divorce because of what he has done to me?

I am still young enough to start again but don’t want to live with the fear of being seen as ungodly for seeking divorce or should I let him seek divorce based on irreconcilable differences, I have been much kinder to him since he disciplined me out of fear of it happening again which he has warned me it will if I step out of line and I don’t think he has any right to spank or whip me- he is not my father.”

My Response to Kathy’s dilemma

First let me say I can completely understand how exhausted you have felt after having 6 children in only 5 years of marriage. My first wife had our five children in 8 years and it was tough on her (and she was a stay at home mom too).

Your body does need recovery time between pregnancies while it is debatable how long that is in young women. I think it also depends on your mental situation and how you are feeling about having children.  My niece lost her first child (a daughter) a few days after she was born and wanted to get pregnant as fast she could again and ended up having another child just under a year later and both she and the baby did just fine.

As far as women having children back to back – that was actually very common not too long ago in decades past.  My father-in-law comes from a family of 13 children all from the same mother and I have worked with many Catholic people who came from families of 10 or more children.

I am not saying every woman has to have that many children, but I am saying that God has given women the ability to do that under the right circumstances.

What both Kathy and her husband have done wrong from a Biblical perspective

I think in order to answer your questions we first need to apply the three following Biblical principles to your situation:

Principle #1

Wives are to submit to their husbands in EVERYTHING

“24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:24 (KJV)

Principle #2

Husbands are to love their wives by protecting their wives and caring for their wives physical needs as they would their own bodies

“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:”

Ephesians 5:28-29 (KJV)

Principle #3

Husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge

“7 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)

God always starts with those under authority (like servants, slaves, children and wives) and then goes to those in authority (governors, pastors, fathers, husbands).

So first we have the Biblical principle that wives are to submit to their husbands in everything and yes I believe it was wrong for you to go out on your own and make that decision to take birth control. That is something that should first have discussed with your husband.  I know you might say that you already would have known his answer but going and doing it secretly was not right.

I do believe your husband from a Biblical perspective has the final say in all matters.  I also think you have to come to the realization that you allowed some bitterness to grow in your heart toward your husband because of his lack of considerateness toward you in regard to you getting pregnant.   So you have two areas to apologize for – one for being deceitful and going behind his back with the birth control pills and the other in holding bitterness towards him.  Yes he was wrong to (and I will get more into how he was wrong), but two wrongs never make a right.

Now let’s deal with what your husband did.

God calls husbands to love their wives as their own bodies and to dwell with their wives according to knowledge.  I do not believe your husband has been loving you as his own body by him not being considerate of your physical and mental condition as it relates to your pregnancies being so close together.  He should of as a loving husband being looking out for your physical and mental well-being which apparently he was not doing.  I am sure he honestly thinks he is but he is blind in this area to what is really going on.

Is wife spanking a sin?

Wife spanking in and of itself is not sinful but it could quickly become sinful if it is done under the wrong circumstances or done in an improper way.

The issue of whether a particular act of wife spanking is right or wrong hinges on the Biblical concept of free will and consent. Contrary to the views of my critics, I actually do believe that a husband should seek his wife’s consent on some things.

God’s respect for our free will and consent is clearly shown in this passage of Scripture:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20 (KJV)

God does not force himself upon us but rather he knocks – and in his knocking he is asking for our consent to come in.  Now should we all give our consent to God and is there a consequence for us not giving our consent to God in this situation? Absolutely! The consequence of not consenting to God’s request to come into our lives is hell! But contrary to what some Christians believe, God never forces himself on us in this way – we must freely choose, we must consent to let him in.

In the same way husbands should learn from God’s example.  When it comes to our wife’s body and her very person she must give her consent before we touch her either in a sexual way or in a disciplining way.

For instance in the area of sex I do not believe a husband should ever force himself sexually on his wife but should only do so with her consent.  Now should the consent be given except for rare medical issues that would prevent any sexual contact? Absolutely it should be given.

Now this brings us into how a wife’s consent connects to wife spanking.  I regularly correspond with some Christian couples where the husband spanks his wife.  But in each case they talked about this before marriage and she agreed to this form of discipline.  She also freely consents to it again each time even after they were married and without this consent he will not spank her. These women feel that this is a powerful tool to bring them back into submission to their husbands.

Now other Christian women see this as dishonoring to them and a violation of the Biblical principle that a husband is to honor his wife:

“7 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)

The question that everyone will be asking now is do I spank my wife or did I spank my ex-wife? The answer is no.  I personally have never spanked either my first wife or my second wife and it was not an issue of me asking for consent and it being declined.  It is a matter of my personal preference in regard to discipline methods.

In fact I have not even spanked my children once they reached the teen years. I personally feel this is the beginning of young adulthood and I understand how it might feel humiliating to them because of the culture we have all been raised in. There are plenty of other forms of non-physical discipline I can and have used.

The Bible tells us as fathers not to provoke our children to wrath and I believe forcing physical punishment on a young or pre-adult (which is technically what a teenager is) could very much be a case of “provoking your child to wrath”:

“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”

Colossians 3:21 (KJV)

But even if a Christian husband feels his wife is wrong in objecting to being spanked on the grounds of it being humiliating and dishonoring to her he cannot violate her consent to her body in this way.  Instead he will have to use other non-physical forms of discipline.

But isn’t wife spanking abusive?

Wife spanking is not automatically abusive. As I previously said if a wife consents to this type of physical discipline then there is no sin and there is no abuse. But even if she does not consent this does not automatically make wife spanking physical abuse but instead it may be a husband abusing his authority.

You might be scratching your head now so let me try and explain the distinction.

If a husband spanks his wife without her consent, but does not cause any serious or lasting damage to her body this is not physical abuse, but rather an abuse or misuse of his authority which is still sin. If a husband spanks his wife with or without her consent but in the process causes serious or lasting damage to her body then this would be both an abuse of his authority as well as the act of physically abusing his wife’s body.  If a man physically abuses his wife this is a clear violation of the Ephesians 5:29 principle that a man is to care for and protect his wife’s body as he does his own.

So what is the distinction between the discipline of a wife and child?

The next question that someone might ask is “if spanking is not automatically treating your wife as a child then what is?”

In many ways especially when it comes to the discipline of teenagers the discipline of a wife by her husband and the discipline of children by their father will often look similar.  But there are two key differences between the way discipline occurs between a parent and child and between a husband and his wife.

The first difference is honor.

“7 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)

The Bible tells husbands in I Peter 3:7 that they are to give “honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel”.  A husband must give proper honor to his wife’s position when disciplining her.   This means whenever possible a husband should not verbally, physically or in any other way discipline his wife in front of his children to whom she is also an authority.  He should discipline in her private wherever possible.  Now there may be some instances where public rebuke is called for by a husband toward his wife if she is publically disrespecting him or undermining his authority with their children.

The second difference is consent.

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

Proverbs 29:15 (KJV)

A parent does not need a child’s consent to physically discipline them. Children don’t get to make choices over their own bodies – parents make medical and all decisions regarding their children’s bodies except in the area of sexuality.  A parent has no right to touch their child in a sexual way – this is a sin before God.

A wife on the other hand must give consent to her husband for him to physically access her body either for sexual pleasure or for discipline and this is a key difference between the discipline of children and the discipline of a wife.

And now leaving the topic of discipline and specifically wife spanking let’s move on the topic of a husband forcing his wife to get pregnant.

Is a husband wrong for forcing his wife to get pregnant year after year?

Again we come back to consent.  In the same way a wife must consent to any physical contact including sexual or disciplinary contact she too must consent to getting pregnant. Should she consent? Just as with sexual relations I think in most normal cases she should.  But a husband must also love his wife as his own body and care for her physical and mental needs and not force her to get pregnant if this would not be mentally or physically healthy for her.

“He is not my father”

Kathy – I think you need to be careful with the attitude of “he is not my father”, I know where you are coming from because you think he is treating you like a child by grounding you and spanking you. But realize your husband actually has more Biblical authority over than your father because of his sexual access to your body.  I do think husbands can under certain circumstances take away certain privileges from their wives, but ultimately I don’t think a husband can keep his wife a prisoner in her home.   He could take away credit cards and access to money so there is little you can do when you go out.

I know it is a tough situation to be in with the pregnancies so close together and him expecting more children. But while I do see sinful behavior on his part in his neglecting to love you as his own body considering your mental and physical wellbeing with having so many children together I don’t see it as rising to the level of allowing for divorce.

And you really need to consider that you have five children that will grow up in a divorce situation.  I have been there.  I have five children and I had to divorce my wife for unfaithfulness (she had an affair with an ex-boyfriend) and I had to raise them in a divorce situation.  It is not easy. And don’t think second marriages are easy because they are not.  Your next husband may not ever spank you or ground you or want you to have kids every year but he will have other problems that won’t come out until after you are married.

However even though I think divorce is not warranted, I think separation might be.

Kathy – It is one thing if your husband is doing things that might upset you, but don’t affect you in such a personal way.  For instance maybe your husband gambles but he still provide food, clothing and shelter for you.  Maybe your husband looks at porn privately but never makes you watch it and he regularly has sex with you. Maybe he drinks too much, but he never drives drunk and he only drinks in his off hours at home. Maybe he is a workaholic.  You get my point.  These things affect you but none of these things have to do with your consent.

You husband Biblically speaking does not have to get your consent to do things for himself (whether they be right or wrong in your view).  Whether he works too much, looks at porn, drinks, or does a host of other things he does not have to have your consent in any of these matters.

However he DOES have to have your consent to your body and your person.  He cannot go against your consent in this way even though in many cases God requires that you give him your consent.

If your husband is making you have children every year that affects you and your body and mind in a very personal way.  If he is spanking you without your consent that type of discipline affects your body and mind in a very personal way.

It is because his behavior in these areas so profoundly affects you in these personal ways that you may need to show him that through separation.  If he fails to see that he must have your consent in these areas then perhaps he will just divorce you. I hope it does not come to that and that your husband will see the error of his ways.

If God does not force himself on us, but rather he knocks and asks for our consent how can we as Christian husbands think we have more power than God?

Does I Corinthians 7:4 contradict the concept that a wife must give her consent to her body?

Some of my fellow Christians to the right of me might say I Corinthians 7:4 contradicts my teaching here about husbands needing the consent of their wives in regard to their bodies.

“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 7:4 (KJV)

I have used this verse often on this blog to show that the Bible say husbands and wives should not deny each other sexually.

However I Corinthians 7:4 does not remove consent either on the part of the husband or the wife. Let’s look at the larger context:

“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 7:3-4 (KJV)

Notice that the word “consent” actually occurs in verse 5. But really in these three verses there are two types of consent. Verses 3 and 4 show a REQUIRED consent.  I know that seems like a contradiction but it really is not.

Let me show you why the concept of required consent is not a contraction. If a police officer pulls you over thinking you might be drunk driving you are required to give your consent to a breathalyzer test.   If you fail to consent to that the consequence of your failure to consent is that you get arrested and taken to jail.

In marriage yes a wife must give her consent to her husband for him to have sexual access to her body as she must get his consent to get access to his body.  But make no mistake this type of consent is required. Failure to give consent to sex over a long period of time may result in the injured spouse exercising their Biblical right to divorce for sexual denial – both men and women have this right.

The second type of consent where the word “consent” is actually used in verse 5 is talking about a mutual or optional consent as opposed to a required consent. A husband and wife must mutually agree to periods where they will not have sex for various reasons but then they need to come together again soon to avoid sexual temptation.

So in conclusion – no I Corinthians 7:4 does not cancel out the fact that a husband must have consent to his wife’s body especially in the areas of sex, discipline and her getting pregnant.

UPDATE: 8/21/2016

After reading my post on her dilemma with her husband Kathy wrote me back with this response:

“Thank you for your reply,

I have read your answer and you have made some very good points about areas I should look at. I guess taking birth control without discussing it was a bad move as the only reason I didn’t really want another child was not because I didn’t feel mentally or physically able but because I wanted control of the choice even though prior to our marriage we agreed we would not use any form of birth control and let nature decide.

We also agreed that I would be sexually available to my husband as required so he has never actually taken me without consent as he has never asked for permission.

I have never and would never refuse him but I have being grudging and unwelcoming to his advances.

I have found your advice excellent and I guess the spanking was a last resort for him as his words didn’t seem to be having the effect on me he wanted- he is a wonderful father to our children and excellent provider for us and he works so hard to ensure I don’t have to work or worry about finances which I’m sure would be very stressful if I had to worry about work and bills and such things.

I will pray on this situation and ask my husband for forgiveness for my disobedience and shameful behavior and I will thankfully and joyfully position myself under his rightful authority again as the head of our home and bedroom and hopefully this will return us to the peace and calm that reigned in the early years of our union.

Kind Regards

Kathy”

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Do Christian wives have to submit to Bondage and Sadomasochism requests from their husbands?

“My husband has begun to practice your “7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife” plan on me because I will not participate in the BDSM activities that he desires. I want to have sex with him! Just not with BDSM.” – This is part of an email I received from a Christian wife who calls herself Olivia.

So is refusal to participate in BDSM activities as a form of sexual foreplay the same as sexually denying one’s spouse?

What is BDSM?

This is the definition of BDSM according to Wikipedia:

“The term BDSM is first recorded in a Usenet posting from 1991, and is interpreted as a combination of the abbreviations B/D (Bondage and Discipline), D/s (Dominance and submission), and S/M (Sadism and Masochism).”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM

This is another definition of Bondage from Wikipedia:

“Bondage is the practice of consentually tying, binding, or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic, and/or somatosensory stimulation. Rope, cuffs, bondage tape, self-adhering bandage, or other restraints may be used for this purpose.

Bondage itself does not necessarily imply sadomasochism. Bondage may be used as an end into itself, as in the case of rope bondage and breast bondage. It may also be used as a part of sex or in conjunction with other BDSM activities. The letter “B” in the acronym “BDSM” comes from the word “bondage”. Sexuality and erotica are an important aspect in bondage, but are often not the end in itself. Aesthetics also plays an important role in bondage.

A common reason for the active partner to tie up their partner is so both may gain pleasure from the restrained partner’s submission and the feeling of the temporary transfer of control and power. For sadomasochistic people, bondage is often used as a means to an end, where the restrained partner is more accessible to other sadomasochistic behaviour. However, bondage can also be used for its own sake. The restrained partner can derive tactile pleasure from the feeling of helplessness and immobility, and the active partner can derive visual pleasure and satisfaction from seeing their partner tied up.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bondage_(BDSM)

So in summary BDSM is when one person consensually allows themselves to be tied up and possibly punished by another person and may even endure physical pain either for their own pleasure or for someone else’s pleasure. BDSM may or may not be used as foreplay for sex.

Before I give my response to Olivia’s dilemma here is her full statement to me.

Olivia’s Story

“BGR,

My husband has begun to practice your “7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife” plan on me because I will not participate in the BDSM activities that he desires. I want to have sex with him! Just not with BDSM. He says my unwillingness to submit to BDSM practices is a form of sexual denial and I’m not fulfilling my Christian duty if I don’t do this for him. We have been married for 18 years. I have followed his desires and tried to even initiate sex for all our 18 years of marriage. I even tried the BDSM stuff a few times to see if I could do it. I hate it! Every possible scenario. Sex doesn’t happen until he has finished “the game”. I’m done!

I want a normal (whatever that is) sex life. No more “games”. Just us in the bedroom with nothing but skin. Mad passionate sex! Yank each other’s clothes off, can’t wait to touch you, sex – which has never happened. I’m going through menopause, he says I don’t have any sexual desires right now. I do, it’s just not what he wants. I have prayed, cried out to God for wisdom, we went to marriage counseling, nothing has changed. And now he sends me links to your site and gives me the ultimatum.

He says his “needs” aren’t being met and I’m sexually unavailable for him. I’ve already gone through the steps you have given on what to do. Talked with our pastor (with him), counseling, confront him, pray. I’m not an outspoken kind of person, just someone who is trying to save” her marriage. He is a good man, he has some control issues, but most of his actions are from a Godly heart. Any help would be great.”

My Response to Olivia and the issue of BDSM as it relates to Christians

Requests for BDSM come not only from some husbands as is the case in Olivia’s story, but sometimes they actually come from Christian wives too.  I know of a Christian man whose wife left if him for another man because he refused to practice BDSM as sexual foreplay.  She wanted to be tied up and gagged with a ball in her mouth and she wanted to act out rape fantasies with him. She wanted him to be rough with her and choke her during sex.  He thought this was disgusting and refused to act out these fantasies with her.  So she found another man who would and eventually left her husband for that man.

So how should a Christian husband or wife respond to requests for BDSM from their spouse? I believe the answers are clear when we understand the Biblical associations of bondage and pain.

Christians should not seek pleasure through bondage and pain

The Bible associates bondage and pain with this world that has been corrupted with sin.

“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

Romans 8:21 (KJV)

“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?”

Galatians 4:9 (KJV)

“To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16 (NASB)

No Christian ought to take pleasure from being bound or binding someone else. No Christian out to take pleasure from causing themselves pain or causing pain to others.

Christians should embrace liberty and healing

Rather than seeking enjoyment through bondage and pain, Christians should seek freedom and healing both for themselves and those around them.

“18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Luke 4:18-19 (KJV)

 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 (KJV)

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Galatians 5:21 (KJV)

What about fluffy handcuffs and silk ties?

When I talk about Christians not submitting themselves to bondage for sexual pleasure I am not talking about a wife playfully taking some clothes and tying her own hands around the bedpost or using fluffy handcuffs that she can easily get out of it.  These are playful things.  Just check out those links above and you will see the disgusting types of bondage activities I am talking about (warning some images on Wikipedia regarding BDSM are graphic).

What if my spouse refuses to have sex with me without BDSM?

I am not sure but I believe this may be the case with Olivia. If your spouse refuses to have sex unless you engage in BDSM foreplay then it is they who are in fact sexually denying you.  If this is the case and you are a husband I suggest you follow the steps outlined in my article “8 Steps to confront your wife’s sexual refusal”.  If you are a wife and this is the case then I suggest you follow the steps outlined in my article “4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal”.

Get counseling for people who have BDSM fetishes

If your spouse is willing to –encourage them to seek out a good Biblical Christian counselor who can help them overcome these sinful desires.  In many ways people who have BDSM desires are really no different than those who have homosexual or bisexual desires.  These desires are all sinful corruptions of the natures that God gave us.

“If you don’t think wife’s can refuse sex to their husbands you must be into BDSM!”

I can’t tell you how many times I have been accused in emails of being a person who enjoys BDSM with my wife because of my view that a wife cannot sexually refuse her husband. Let me be perfectly clear.  I have never nor will I ever engage in BDSM practices with my wife.

People write me on almost a daily basis with statements like “Why would any man want to have sex with a woman who does not want to have sex with him?” My answer to them is simple – no normal man wants his wife to be refusing him for sex.  No normal man enjoys sex with his wife when she does it grudgingly in the way he enjoys it when she gives herself freely to him. But he realizes that sex must occur in marriage for many reasons even when his wife may not be in the mood.  This is not the optimal situation and this is not what a loving husband wants.

But let me be clear that a husband accepting his wife’s grudging and reluctant consent to sex and then engaging in sex with her under those conditions is not the same as a man who takes pleasure in forcing BDSM activities on his wife. 

In the first case – the husband gets no pleasure from acting against his wife’s will, in the second case the majority of the husband’s pleasure actually comes from acting against his wife’s will.

And just for all the rape accusers out there.  When I say a husband “acting against his wife’s will” I am talking about her mood and desire for sex.  I have said it repeatedly on this site that while I do not believe that Biblically speaking there is such a thing as “marital rape” I do believe that a husband who physically forces himself sexually on his wife is engaging in physical abuse and he is abusing the authority God have given him over his wife.  When I say a husband is “acting against his wife’s will” in the first case – it is where she reluctantly or grudgingly gives CONSENT to sexual relations, but make no mistake consent is given.

And sorry rape accusers – consent does not have to be “enthusiastic consent” or its rape as you like to say.   Grownups realize that whether it is comes to sex, or going to our jobs or doing many other things in life – sometimes we consent do doing things unenthusiastically because we know we should even though we don’t feel like it.

Conclusion

If your spouse tries to do what Oliva’s husband has done and attempts to say you are sexually denying them because you refuse to participate in BDSM activities as foreplay to sex you need to let them know your conviction that these acts violate your conscious and you feel that God would not want you as a Christian participating in them. Be sure to be loving when you do this.  Especially if you are a wife you need to really do this with a great deal of respect and reference for your husband.

What Olivia so longs for with her husband – “Just us in the bedroom with nothing but skin. Mad passionate sex! Yank each other’s clothes off, can’t wait to touch you, sex” is a desire that has been given to her by God and she should feel no shame in that. Her husband on the other hand, needs to realize that his desires for BDSM foreplay with his wife are not desires that God gave him.  They are a corruption of the original nature God gave him and he needs to recognize them as such and repent.  He most likely needs to seek out a Biblical Christian counselor to help him to deal with these sinful desires to cultivate a natural sexual desire for his wife as she has natural sexual desire for him.

If her husband refuses to have sex with her until she agrees to BDSM as foreplay to sex then she practice the steps outlined in my article “4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal”.

And just a closing note to husbands like Olivia’s. Never on this site have I ever told men they can divorce their wives for sexual performance issues – only sexual denial.  Those are completely different things.  I have men all the time writing me asking me things like “If my wife won’t perform oral sex on me can I divorce her for sexual refusal” and I always answer them with a resounding NO!

Many men and women may lack in the sexual performance area but just because your spouse won’t perform sexual acts (outside of intercourse) does not mean you can leave them.  You need to first examine if what you are asking for is Biblically acceptable sexual behavior. If it is then speak with them gently about it.  If they refuse then pray for them.

In other words as Christian husbands we should NOT punish our wives because they won’t do certain things like wear lingerie, act in sexy ways toward us or perform oral sex on us.  

However I do believe that we can use positive reinforcement to encourage our wives to act outside their comfort zones in the area of sexual performance.  Basically you let your wife see by your actions (not your words) that when she “steps it up” in the bedroom by doing things outside her comfort zone that in response you “step it up” outside the bedroom by doing extra nice things for her.

7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife

Biblically speaking all those who are under various authorities can and should be disciplined by those authorities. The husband wife relationship is no exception to this rule. So how should a Christian husband go about his duty of disciplining his wife whom God has placed under his authority? This is a question that we will seek to answer here.

When we hear the word discipline in the context of wives this can be a scary term for many. It invokes images of husbands beating their wives and knocking them around or locking them in closets. It might invoke images of husbands standing over their wives yelling and screaming at them and using all kinds of obscenities. This is not the type of discipline that we are talking about in a Biblical context. Men who behave in such ways will answer to God for this abusive treatment of their wives.

Arguments against the discipline of wives by their husbands

Before we can get into how to discipline your wife as a Christian husband we need to address the arguments against any form of discipline by husbands toward their wives.

Argument #1 A Partner cannot discipline their other partner

The first and most common argument against Christian husband’s disciplining their wives is the belief that a husband and wife are equal partners in marriage. The Bible does not show marriage as a partnership, but rather a Patriarchy (male lead hierarchy). See my post “Is Marriage a Partnership or a Patriarchy?” for all the Scriptures that present marriage as a Patriarchy and not a partnership.

Argument #2 Discipline infantilizes a wife

Some would argue that if a man disciplines his wife in any way that this is treating her (an adult) as a child. This could not be further from the truth. The discipline of a wife is certainly different than that of a child and we will discuss that later in this post.

But discipline is something that applies to adults as well as children. Governments have the power to discipline their adult citizens, military commanders have the ability to discipline adults under their command, Churches have the power to discipline their adult members, and employers have the right to discipline their adult employees. Discipline applies to all of us as adults – both men and women.

No one would argue against discipline in these other spheres of authority or say that it infantilizes these adults.   Certainly there is also the potential to abuse one’s authority and discipline in wrong ways, but the exercise of discipline itself is not wrong, only the abuse of it is.

Argument #3 A wife’s submission to her husband is voluntary, therefore he cannot discipline her

Even some Christian complementarians and others who believe in male headship in marriage reject the husband’s right and responsibility to discipline his wife. They do so based on their belief that while a wife is commanded by God to submit to her husband, this is a voluntary submission on her part and cannot be compelled from her husband.

So in their reasoning if a husband cannot compel his wife’s submission, he cannot discipline her for failure to submit to his leadership. I have shown how the Scriptures refute the idea that a wife’s submission is voluntary but rather they show that her submission is mandatory and synonymous with obedience. See my previous post “Should a Christian husband make his wife submit?” for more on this subject.

Argument #4 Christ does not discipline his bride

Some Christians, both complementarians and egalitarians, have attempted to argue that since we have no examples of Christ disciplining his bride (which is the Church) that husbands ought not to discipline their wives. This is actually not true.

Throughout the Scriptures God pictures his relationship with his people in two primary ways. The Bible pictures our relationship with God as individuals as that of a Father and his children. The Bible pictures God’s relationship with his people as a group as that of a husband and a wife with God being the husband and the people of God being his wife.

In the Old Testament God made a covenant with and married Israel as a nation (Ezekiel 16:1-14). Later he shows he had to divorce Israel because she failed to repent of her wicked ways and return to him (Jeremiah 3:8) despite the discipline that he had brought on Israel.

In the New Testament God has a new bride which is foretold in the Old Testament prophecies. But the Church (which a new body compromised of the remnant of Israel and Gentile believers) is pictured as bride that is betrothed to her husband which is Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 11:2). The marriage and consummation of the Church with Christ is seen in the marriage supper of the lamb in Revelation 19:9.

Even as a betrothed bride, Christ disciplined his Church through his Apostles who acted as the protector and guides of his bride.

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” – II Corinthians 11:2 (NIV)

“What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” – I Corinthians 4:21 (NIV)

When speaking to his seven churches in Revelation (chapters 2 & 3) Christ rebukes and disciplines all but one because of their failings and Christ says this to his churches:

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (NIV)

So my point in all this is – Those who say God does not discipline his bride are ignoring passages of Scripture that show both in his previous marriage to Israel as well as his current betrothal to the Church that he in fact does discipline his bride.

My position on wife spanking

While I do not support all the methods prescribed by Christian Domestic Discipline (CDD) movement (a group that advocates for wife spanking and other physical discipline toward wives) I do not think wife spanking by itself is sinful.  I believe it requires the consent of the wife though to use that type of discipline.  I do not practice this myself and no it is not because my wife did not consent.  I never asked to do this and I never would – this is my preference.  But I do know some godly Christian couples that use this in their marriage with the wife’s consent.  I have written an entire article on this subject that you can read “Does the Bible allow a husband to spank his wife?

Different Types of Discipline for Different Spheres of Authority

The discipline from each authority that God has established looks very different. The types of discipline that a government can bring on its citizens looks very different than the discipline that church authorities can bring on their members. The discipline of an employer toward his employees looks very different than the discipline of parents toward their children. In the same way a husband’s discipline toward his wife will look different that the discipline used in these other spheres of authority.

But what all these spheres of authority have in common is this:

In every sphere of authority God has established that the authority has not only the right, but the duty to discipline those under their authority.

Discipline makes us a better person

The Bible has a lot to say about discipline. These are just a few of those passages.

“Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” – Proverbs 10:17 (NIV)

“Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.” – Proverbs 13:18 (NIV)

“Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” – Proverbs 15:32 (NIV)

Discipline should be measured

“I am with you and will save you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’” – Jeremiah 30:11 (NIV)

As husbands our discipline should always start off gently and then move toward harder forms of discipline. So for instance, if your wife rarely speaks in a disrespectful or demeaning tone to you then if she slips up gently let her know that her tone was demeaning or disrespectful. If she apologizes then no further action is needed.

But what if your wife is acting defiant or publicly speaks disrespectfully toward you as her husband? In this case a Christian husband may be compelled to use harder forms of discipline.

Discipline is about holiness

Christ did not sacrifice himself for his bride (the Church) in order for her to follow her own selfish ways, but rather he sacrificed himself to make her holy.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” – Ephesians 5:25-27(NIV)

As we previously mentioned God says this to his churches in Revelation:

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Revelation 3:19 (NIV)

No man who truly loves his wife takes pleasure in disciplining her. We as Christian’s husbands naturally want to see our wives happy we don’t want to rock the boat needlessly. This is why discipline on the part of a husband toward his wife if he is truly acting in love is a sacrifice on his part. It saddens him to have to take these measures with his wife whom he loves.

Discipline is about maintaining Order

I think the comparison of the family structure to military ranks is both Biblical as hupotasso (the Biblical term for submission in marriage) is a military term and it helps us to understand the discipline in the home as well.

God is like our General (4 star). In the home the husband would be like a Lieutenant General (3 star), and the wife would be like a Major General (2 star). The children would be the enlisted men. Imagine that a 4 star General came along and saw a 2 star General publically degrading her 3 star General in front of other officers or the enlisted men. What do you think the response would be from that 4 star General?

That 4 star General would first scold the 2 star General for her disrespect and then he would probably scold the 3 star General for allowing the disrespect to go on. It is the same with God as he looks at the relationships of husbands and wives.

He has given us different positions and we are to exercise and play out those parts he has given us. As a Christian husband you cannot allow your wife’s demeaning or disrespectful behavior to go unchecked because it is an affront to God’s established order. You are responsible for teaching both your wife and your children the ways of God. You are equally responsible for disciplining your wife and children when they rebel against God’s ways.

So now that we have addressed the arguments against a Christian husband disciplining his wife as well as the intended purpose of a husband disciplining his wife we can now look at practical examples of how a Christian husband can discipline his wife.

7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife

Discipline toward your wife should always start with the gentlest approach first and only move toward harder forms of discipline if the gentle approach does not yield results. Warnings should always be given before harder types of discipline are implemented. You should always pray and seek the Lord’s guidance before bringing these types of discipline on his wife.

Here are 7 ways you can discipline your wife if a gentle rebuke does not work:

#1 For Disrespect

If your wife is speaking in disrespectful and demeaning ways in public in front of others (whether this is toward you or others) this might require a public rebuke of her tone and actions.

#2 For Overspending

If your wife is spending money against your wishes – this may require confiscation of her credit cards and ATM cards. Of course this can be done in measured amounts. Perhaps you might just take away one or two cards that she has abused and if her spending continues to get out of control you would move toward removing the ATM card as well. This does not necessarily mean she would have no money, but you could give her a cash allowance each week.

#3 For failing to care for your children or contradicting your authority with your children

If your wife is failing to do her duties as a mother toward your children or she is continuing to contradict your authority with the children then perhaps you might put off buying that new car for her and have her continue driving her older car for a while as long as it is safe for her to drive. If you have to purchase another car – you could downgrade the type of car she will be able to get or buy her a used one instead. Maybe you put off the purchase of that new dishwasher she has been wanting.

#4 For too much TV watching

If your wife is watching too much TV you could cancel the cable or satellite TV and just have antenna service.

#5 For too much online time

If your wife is spending too much time online (like Facebook or other social outlets or online shopping) then if she does not respond to your warnings about this you could change your internet code on your router so that her devices will not have access to the internet.

#6 For neglect of the home

Maybe your wife is not watching too much TV or spending too much time online but she is still neglectful toward her duties in your home. If your wife is being neglectful of her duties to care for your home then you might put off that new living room furniture set you have been talking about or those new window dressings she has been wanting.

#7 For sexual denial

If your wife is un-submissive in the sexual arena and chronically denies your sexual advances (without legitimate medical or psychological reasons for doing so) then perhaps that upcoming trip you were going to take her on gets canceled. Maybe that wardrobe upgrade your wife was looking forward to gets downsized or canceled. The Bible says a man has to supply his wife with clothing, but it does not say it has to be the expensive clothing she wants!

Some of these disciplinary procedures may affect the family as a whole, but sometimes it is necessary to do this in an attempt to bring your wife to repentance.

These are just some examples of non-abusive ways that a Christian husband can discipline his wife in a way that honors God and his design for the home.

Conclusion

God not only give husbands the power to discipline their wives, but he also gives them to the duty to do this. Men should not discipline their wives out some sort of power trip or prideful arrogance. Instead men should discipline their wives from a place of love in order to bring about holiness and order in their homes. Even if a wife rejects her husband’s discipline as Israel did God as her husband – he should still discipline her and pray that God will bring his wife to repentance.

Update 10/20/2015

Answers to readers questions

What if a wife works and makes her own money or even makes more money than her husband?

Many have emailed and asked me “What if a wife works and makes her own money or even makes more money than her husband – wouldn’t that take the teeth out of most of these types of discipline?”

Discipline is not about controlling someone and physically forcing a person to do a certain thing. Discipline is about trying to motivate someone to choose to do the right thing.  I have teenage sons and they are both bigger than me now. I gave up trying to physically make them do anything many years ago.

Now I discipline them through very similar discipline to that which I could use with my wife.  I take away their laptops sometimes for a few days, other times I take away their cell phones for a few days.  Now could my son’s physically refuse to hand over things, or work around any punishment I gave them? Absolutely.

But my sons submit to my discipline because as angry and rebellious as they can be at times, they know that God has placed me over them to look out for their spiritual and physical good and they know I love them.

I hear from women all the time – “well if you took this away, I would just do this…and so on”.  Yes whether they be young adults (teens) or older adults we all must decide if we will submit to and learn from discipline what the person in authority is trying to teach us.

Wives must choose to submit to discipline – there is no question.  I am not saying it is optional or voluntary, God requires women to submit to the discipline of their husbands. But a husband cannot physically control his wife or her actions.

However just because a husband cannot physically control his wife, he is still required to do as much as is in his power to do as her husband to bring discipline into her life that will show her the right path.  Now she can either rebel against that discipline and try and go around it, or she can learn the lesson that is meant to be learned by the discipline.

When a husband has done everything he can do as his wife’s immediate authority, then he leaves her in the hands of her higher authority which is God himself.

One last thing on the area of finances.  Yes your wife might work.  Yes she may make more money than you. But if she is mishandling the money you have an obligation to a least separate your money from hers so she will not be able to use it for sinful or reckless purposes.

But won’t discipline attempts by a husband toward his wife ultimately lead to divorce?

Other husbands have emailed in and asked “But won’t these types of discipline ultimately lead to divorce?”

Divorce is always a very real possibility in any marriage, whether discipline takes place or not.

But God does not call us as husbands to abdicate our role as the head of our wives in order to keep our marriage together at all costs. Christ did not sacrifice himself for his church to enable her sin, but to make her holy.

If you allow your wife to believe the threat of divorce will get you to let her continue in whatever sinful behavior she is doing she will use it every time.

In fact the two most powerful tools in the hands of most modern rebellious wives is that of the threat of divorce or the removal of sex.

There are many men in American and western cultures that have been brought to their knees in submission to their wives using one or a combination of these two evil weapons.

Now on the threat of divorce – threats of divorce are not always evil.  If a woman threatens to divorce her husband because he is physically abusing her or her children, or because he refuses to work or provide for his family she is Biblically justified in doing so (there are other valid reasons for divorce as well).

But if she threatens divorce because of unbiblical reasons this makes the threat of divorce a weapon of evil.

At the end of the day you as a husband must stand against sin in your home and your marriage regardless of what consequences may come.  Your wife will then be left with the choice of whether she will rebel against your discipline (and therefore against God’s authority) or she will submit to your discipline and learn from it and the fruit of it will be righteousness in her life.

“Can’t you just talk to your wife like an adult? What is all the need for this discipline stuff?”

I have received many variations of this question since I first posted this article. The answer to that question if you actually read this post is that a husband should always speak to his wife gently at first.

So for instance if a husband thinks his wife is mishandling the credit cards his first action is not to take away the cards.  It is to first speak with her gently.

With many Christian wives the gentle approach is all that is needed.

But are we so naïve to think that every wife will respond to these gently conversations and turn from her sinful behavior, whatever that may be? Is there no such thing as an unrepentant and rebellious sinful wife who tells her husband “where he can stick it” anytime he brings things to her attention?

Many Christians and even non-Christians would have us to believe that wives who do the things I mentioned above do not exist.  The existence of these wives is equivalent to big foot, it’s just a myth in their view.

Others will acknowledge the existence of these kinds of women. But many Christians will say that all a man can do is pray for his unrepentant wife, he is not allowed by God to bring any kind of discipline into her life.  I believe in the power of prayer, and a husband should always pray about discipline he is bringing into his wife’s life.

But if you asked these same Christians if they had a rebellious child or teen if they should do nothing and just pray about it – they would have a very different answer.  The reason is because many Christians have made this “carve out” this special class for wives where they are immune to discipline.

Even a husband is not immune to discipline. But rather his discipline comes from the Church or from civil authorities.  For instance if a wife is being physically abused by her husband she has every Biblical right to go to her husband’s authorities in the Church and in civil government to seek help and for them to discipline him.

Update 3/29/2016

What if finances are tight is there any other way a wife can disciplined?

As of today, this post by itself as received almost half a million views since I first published it back in October 2015. I have had countless emails from Christian men asking me to clarify things as well as address their specific situations.

One of the issues that has been raised is how can a man discipline his wife if the finances are tight? What if you are living on a shoe string budget and there is no money for the niceties she may be wanting or what if as I previously mentioned she works and has her own money to do what she wants?

The answer Christian husbands is TIME. Really this could be considered “the 8th way to discipline your wife”. Most women want three things from their husbands – money, time and tokens of affection.  Some women will go without the money, others may even go without the tokens of affection (flowers, jewelry, and other gifts). But few women except for those who married only for money will go without their husband’s time.

So no matter how poor you are Christian husband – in most cases you have a precious and costly item to your wife in the form of your time.  Certainly God wants you to spend time with your wife. In Deuteronomy 24:5 we read that newlywed men were not to go away to war or for any kind of business for the first year of their marriage in order to “cheer up” or as some translations render it “make happy” their wives. I Peter 3:7 tells men to “dwell with their wives according to knowledge” – You can do this without spending some time with her.

I say all this to say that in no way am I saying that you can completely ignore your wife as a form of discipline.  One wrong does not make another wrong right. But you can use discretion with your time.  If you give your wife 5 hours of your free time a week for just the two of you cut it back to 3 hours.  Perhaps there are some TV shows you watch with you wife that you have zero interest in but you just watch them to spend some time with her.  Stop doing this.  There may be upgrades around the house that require more of your time than your money. Perhaps it is repainting rooms.  Leave handy man tasks alone unless they are absolutely necessary.

My point is you know your wife best and where she wants your time – use those times to show her your displeasure in her wrong actions.  You would be surprised at how quickly just the removal of some of your time with her will get the gears in her brain running.