Today’s question comes from an unmarried woman who’s considering marriage … and whether sex must be a part of that relationship.
Mainly my question is, is it ok to not have sex in a marriage? So if I don’t want to have sex, should I never get married? Because women around me are always saying how great sex is in marriage and what a blessing it is and I have come to despise that. I read Christian blogs on the topic and they say the same kind of stuff and how a wife shouldn’t deny her husband sex. What if the husband is ok with not having sex too? Is that possible? Because my boyfriend … says it’s ok to not and he’s ok with not and we can come pretty close to sex without actually having it. Is that alright? He has a medical condition as well “adrenal insufficiency” which most likely won’t allow him to have kids. I don’t know if that also affects his desire to have sex but if it does, maybe that’s why he’s ok with not.
… I don’t want to be with him and waste both of our time if he is super driven to have sex and I won’t give it to him. I didn’t want to go all the way to a month before marriage and realize we have such a big problem. But we seem to agree on it. We’re very careful and wanting to do the right thing with our future and I’m hoping you can help with these questions. I haven’t been able to find anything on “a fear of having sex” on the Internet so I am asking directly and personally now.
Just a note for the readers: In the full email, it was clear that her “boyfriend” is very close to being a fiancé.
Now to the question: Is it ok not to have sex in a marriage?
Well, what are the purposes of marriage? You can see a number of purposes for marriage in the Bible:
- Procreation (see Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 4:1, Ruth 4:13)
- Alliance (see Genesis 24:1-4, 1 Kings 3:1, Esther 4:14)
- Companionship (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Matthew 18:19-20)
- Romantic Love (see Genesis 29:18, Song of Songs 5:8)
- Intimacy (see Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6)
- Making Love (see Genesis 29:20-21, Proverbs 5:18-19, 1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
- Reflection of God and His People (see Hosea 2:19-20, Isaiah 54:5, Ephesians 5:31-32)
It appears that first one is off the table for you two, with his medical issues. But honestly, all of those other purposes should be present in a healthy, godly marriage.
And sex is involved in a lot of those other purposes as well. You need sex to procreate; sex promotes romantic love; sex deepens intimacy; and the sexual act itself reflects the unity God desires to have with us.
Sex is one of the characteristics that distinguishes the marriage relationship from all others. I can have a roommate with whom I form a partnership, and we can be friends and serve God together. But that isn’t a marriage. A friendship between man and woman becomes marriage when we link our lives and our bodies in a covenant relationship before God.
You simply can’t find me a marriage in the Bible that didn’t include sex. So if all biblical marriage relationships involved sex, maybe God is communicating something about its importance. After all, sex was His idea from the beginning:
Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:22-25).
Why would God make sure there’s an entire book in the Bible devoted to romantic and sexual love? Song of Songs makes it clear that there’s barely a heartbeat between a husband and wife saying, “I love you,” and then desiring physical intimacy:
How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant (Song of Songs 1:16).
My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens
and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies. (Song of Songs 6:2-3). (Gardens/flowers in Song of Songs are euphemisms for a woman’s sexual organs.)
Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages. Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, if their blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom—there I will give you my love (Song of Songs 7:11-12).
God intended for married couples to experience sexual pleasure and intimacy. It’s in His Word, and I just don’t know how a couple can get around that. Now I understand some couples cannot engage due to physical/medical constraints, but that’s an exception — not the rule.
The Bible also talks about how sexual intimacy in marriage can serve as a protection against your husband or you wandering away and falling in love with someone else. I’m not guilt-tripping you here with, “if you don’t put out, he’ll go get it elsewhere.” Cheaters choose to cheat, and that’s their sin. Yet healthy sexual intimacy helps to keep you both focused where you should be.
Here’s how Proverbs 5:15-19 says it:
Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
It’s in the New Testament as well, from 1 Corinthians 7:3-5:
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, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Honestly, I don’t know all the reasons you’re reluctant to have sex once you’re married. But your statement that “I haven’t been able to find anything on ‘a fear of having sex’ on the Internet…” tells me that you’re actually frightened about intercourse.
I get that. But I want to reassure you that there are answers to and ways to overcome that fear. If you’ve experienced sexual abuse in your past, go grab The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender and even its accompanying workbook. If you’ve been taught that sex is dirty or feel like it’s just icky, I’d suggest The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Gregoire. If you don’t understand how it all works and how it’s part of God’s plan, pick up The Pursuit of Passion by Julie Sibert and Jeff Murphy. If you need a biblical view of how to approach sex in marriage, check out Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage by yours truly.
Read Christian articles and blog posts and books about sexual intimacy. Hear beyond the message that sex is something you should do in marriage to the truth that sex is something your marriage should do for you.Sex isn't just something you should do in marriage, but something marriage should do for you. Click To Tweet
Just look at a few practical positives of sexual intimacy in marriage:
- Sexual pleasure helps you look past some of your spouse’s flaws or your own frustrations: Sex Is Like Rose-Colored Glasses.
- Sexual engagement produces body chemicals that increase our sense of closeness and emotional bonding: After the Lovin’: What Happens after Sex?
- Sex requires vulnerability that can lead to greater trust: Getting Comfortable Being Naked with Your Husband
- Orgasms have health and relationship benefits: What’s So Great about an Orgasm?
In the long run, a healthy sex life in marriage will be one ingredient that can make your relationship stronger, deeper, and longer lasting. So I pray that you seek out godly sexual intimacy and have a blessed marriage.
Related Post: Mystery 32 – What’s So Beautiful about Marital Intimacy?
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