Author’s note: Before you read or listen to this article, please keep in mind that this is written for people that are not currently experiencing spousal abuse, or going through counseling for sexual abuse. There are times when it is reasonable for people healing from abuse to go through an agreed time of breaks from sexual activity with their spouse. Please understand that this article is written for women that feel emotionally neglected by their husbands, and are seeking to solve this problem by withholding sex. That is not a biblical approach to this problem. However, anytime a woman feels she has been forced to have sex, even with her husband, that qualifies as abuse. For more information on what qualifies as sexual abuse within marriage please see this article by Leslie Vernick.
This is the first post in a series titled, “Becoming a Better Wife.” Before you get too deep into this post, if you are single, it is God’s will for your to abstain from sex. Why? Go read my personal testimony and you can learn from my mistakes.
This post has been on my heart to write for a while now. I counsel married women on a regular basis, and lately my husband and I have even been doing marriage counseling. It’s not something we were looking to do, but I guess God thought we were qualified because He brought people to us. I really hate to say this, but it seems like there are several issues we hear over and over and over again. It seems to me like satan has convinced quite a few Christian women that certain behaviors towards their husbands are ok, even though what the bible says is clearly opposite. I’m not saying that women are the only ones to blame for painful marriage relationships, but I’m a woman so I am going to speak to other women. Before we start talking about this very sensitive subject, I want to say that I’m not the perfect wife, by any means. I’m a sinner just like everyone on this planet. However, as a wife, I feel like there are some things God has shown me in the last few years so that I can be a better helper against (that is what the Hebrew says) for my husband. I want to honestly and openly share them with you. In fact, let’s start this conversation out with prayer. It’s that important.
Thank you for creating marriage. Please help us to be better wives to our husbands. Help us to follow Your word and Your will for our lives, especially when it will cost us something. Heal our broken hearts and help us to follow Your model for marriage, instead of whatever culturally acceptable picture the world gives us. Help us to be selfless, just like You are.
In Your holy name,
We Withhold Intimacy From Our Husbands
Yes, I am going to talk about sex. Please don’t stop reading. This is so important. I feel like if we could just become aware of the impact of this one area in our marriages, we would be so much more effective as children of God! When women come to me in marital distress there is always one question I ask first. It helps me understand how much damage has been done in the relationship.
“How often are you having sex?”
I usually get some puzzled look from the woman I’m talking to. In her mind this is not the first thing we should be talking about. The first thing women want to talk about in relation to marital distress is emotional neglect. I want to talk about emotional neglect as well, but first I need to know where things are on the husband’s end. For men, emotional care is linked with physical intimacy. I hate to give the devil so much credit, but to me it seems like he has figured out the beautiful circle that maintains marital relationships, and found a way to break the chain. I am a visual person, so I feel like a few images will help illustrate how this whole things works. Let’s take a look.
You can see that for women, emotional care and stimulation lead to sexual desire. But you already knew that. However, I would like to introduce a piece of information that may be news to you (it was to me!). Sexual satisfaction in men is the main connecting factor. It is the glue that holds you together in their minds and hearts. If you are physically intimate with your husband you will unlock his emotions towards you! Sexual satisfaction and fulfillment lead to the emotional response and intimacy you are looking for. That is why I ask this question first. I want to know if withholding physical intimacy is a factor in the emotional neglect a wife might be feeling.
You can see in the next illustration that God has perfectly balanced these two desires which are mutually fulfilled when sexual intimacy happens. By taking away physical intimacy from our husbands, we are making the situation worse, not getting the emotional intimacy that we so desire.
When I am feeling emotionally neglected by my husband, the first thing I ask myself is, when is the last time we had sex? If the answer is recently, then I can check that off of my list. There is another issue. Maybe I was disrespectful to my husband. Maybe I need to lovingly remind him of my emotional needs (not yell at him about it). Maybe he has anger in his heart towards me that the Holy Spirit needs to convict him about. Whatever the problem is, rejecting my husband by denying him the physical intimacy God created him to crave is not going to help our situation.
If you are withholding physical intimacy from your husband to punish him for emotional neglect, you are in sin. In fact, the bible says that your body is not your own. When you get married, you are agreeing that you are becoming one with another person, and that they have dominion over your body. In fact, we see the circular model I talked about displayed here in scripture:
“Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may tie yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:6
Ok, stay with me here. Don’t panic! It says that husband and wife should give affection to each other, and that they own each other’s bodies, not just one way. It also says that we should not deprive each other, unless we are fasting for spiritual reasons. Why? “Because of your lack of self-control.”
This is where withholding intimacy gets into messing up our husband’s walk with God. I’m talking about withholding sex. When we deny our husband the intimacy they are used to getting, what are they left to do with their normal, marital, sexual urges? They are left to struggle!! Do we want that? Our husbands are faced with temptation to look at inappropriate images (which are EVERYWHERE) daily, and it is difficult enough for them to battle that when you ARE sustaining their sexual desires. If you asked a man about this topic and he answered honestly, he would tell you that men that are sleeping next to their beautiful wives every night, wives that reject them physically and emotionally, are much more likely to give into the temptation of masturbation and/or pornography. They are sleeping next to you every night! They love you and that is manifested in their desire for you. To have your husband desire you, and make it a priority to stay pure for you, is a huge blessing from the Lord. Have you ever thought about it that way?
When I’m Exhausted
There are things in all of our lives that zap our energy. Whether you have kids or not, living life, among other things, is enough to wear a sister out! If you work full time, make time for your hubby, do some kind of ministering to others, there are going to be times when you feel too tired to make love to your husband. If you have kids, well, kids are energy suckers. It’s just the truth. But an extra 30 minutes of rest is not worth the risk it may be to you or your spouses purity. I’m not trying to be dramatic. You never know what will happen tomorrow. You never know what unexpected temptations may arise. Let me tell you what I do in these situations. I hope it will encourage and help you. I pray! I pray, pray, pray. I can tell when my husband wants to have sex, and he knows when I’m tired. He won’t even ask me. He’ll simply be quiet, let me fall asleep in peace, and wait patiently until the next day. But I don’t want him to do that. When he wants it, I want to give it to him, even if I don’t actually want to. Oh boy, that doesn’t make sense, but I’m sure you get my meaning. I want to make sure that he is ok, and I am ok. So I pray. This is what a prayer during these exhausted moments may look like:
“Oh Lord, I’m so tired. Please help me! Help me to serve my husband and to desire him even though I can feel this weariness down to my bones. I want to honor You by honoring my husband. And please multiply my rest afterwards, Lord.”
And then I usually attack my husband because it works better for me than easing into it. Why do I pray to desire my husband during these little bursts of prayer? My husband can tell when I’m not into it and that hurts his feelings, and I don’t want that either. I have never, ever, experienced a time when God has not heard this prayer or neglected to answer it. God is faithful. Please don’t forget that.
When I Can’t Do It
I understand that there will be times in all of our lives when we genuinely cannot take part in physical intimacy with our spouses. Whether you are injured or ill, sometimes it simply is not possible. What should a wife do in this situation? There are other ways besides intercourse to relieve sexual urges. Help your husband out. I have been on the opposite end of this struggle as well, with my husband suffering from a chronic auto immune disease (Ulcerative Colitis) there have been times when we were unable to be intimate for months, as he was physically too weak. It was difficult for me on so many levels, but God showed me that worshipping Him gave me a peace that nothing else could bring. Then of course there are times when I haven’t been able to due to injury, or having just given birth, or illness. I did my best to make sure my husband was ok, and I prayed for him to make it through these seasons. He has told me on more than one occasion that he felt these prayers and God sustained him throughout.
Since I’m talking an awful lot about sex this post I thought it would be good to end with some positive spiritual principles to take into your marital love life.
Making love to your spouse is actually an act of worship. Have you ever thought about it that way? When my husband and I started praying together before committing this act of worship, we noticed a difference, especially in our spiritual connection. If your spouse isn’t interested in praying with you before, for whatever reason, don’t let that stop you! Go ahead, pray, ask God to use the time to bring you both closer together and as a way for you to minister to and serve your spouse.
Don’t Fake It
You know exactly what I mean. Don’t fake an orgasm. This is a deceitful behavior and God isn’t going to bless deceit. I don’t ever do it as a matter of maintaing honestly within my marriage. My husband appreciates that, and if it doesn’t happen, he is ok with that. We have had conversations about this very topic because I want him to know that just because that did not happen, for whatever reason, does not mean that I did not enjoy my time being close with him.
An Act of Service
There are few things that all cultures in the world have in common, but one of them is the idea that sex is all about self satisfaction. That is not God’s idea. In fact, sex is one of the most intimate ways we can serve our spouses. Let that dictate your behavior in the bedroom. God sees your heart, and don’t you want it to make Him smile? However, that doesn’t mean that you should prevent your spouse from serving you as well.
If you like something, it is ok to be vocal about it. The same is true if something bothers you or you don’t like it as much. Good communication is important. Just remember to be loving in your speech. I’ll use a non-sexual example to illustrate. For years I straightened my hair on a regular basis anytime my husband and I went out. In fact some people would comment on how they didn’t like my curly hair if I didn’t straighten it. Then one day we were in a rush and I told Travis I still needed to straighten my hair and that was going to make us run late. His response was, “Why do you need to do that? I like your hair better when it is curly.” Needless to say, now I usually wear my hair curly.
Let’s say a quick prayer to end this post.
Lord, Thank you so much for this time we could spend together. Please help us to honor you by loving our husband. Thank You for the model of marriage that You have given us in that Jesus Christ loved the bride, the Church, so much that He gave his life for it. We love you Lord.
If you have specific questions feel free to leave a comment, or email me at kristin.n.spencer [at] gmail [dot] com.