Hot, Holy & Humorous

Q&A with J: “My Sexless Marriage Is Making Me Lose My Faith in God”

Today isn’t one reader’s specific question, but rather a topic that comes up from time to time among people who comment here or email me. Below is a fictional, composite version of the query:

Sex has always been in an issue in my marriage, with my spouse rarely if ever wanting to make love in our 25 years of marriage. For the last eight, I’ve been in a sexless marriage, and when I try to talk to him/her about it, s/he just says that s/he doesn’t need it. I’ve done my part around the house, taken care of the kids, regularly compliment him/her, and try to woo my spouse as much as possible, but apparently my needs mean nothing compared to his/hers. We tried counseling, but he/she quit going after two sessions.

I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed about this for years, but nothing has changed. So that’s it. I’m done with church and with God. And if things done change in the next few months, I’m done with my marriage too. I wish I’d left sooner. I’ve wasted all these years with a woman and a God — if He even exists — who don’t give a flip about me.

Where’s the question in there?

  • Is there a god?
  • If there is a god, why doesn’t He intervene?
  • How can I believe in a god who’d let me suffer so much in my marriage?

Blog post title + man sitting in pew, from behind

I’ve long believed the theological question Why do bad things happen to good people? is usually Why do bad things happen to me? Or a close loved one. Because our life experiences impact how we view the existence and goodness of God.

A sex-conflicted marriage, especially a sexless marriage, is such an emotionally painful experience that it feels cruel to be made to endure it. Especially when you’ve done everything you can think of to be loving, to be faithful, to cry out to God for deliverance. When nothing changes — or gets worse — your core belief in God can be shaken. Your faith falters.

Let me first assure you that I’ve been there. I was raised in the church, a preacher’s daughter, but I faced a faith crisis in my early 20s. Did God exist, or was religion simply wishful thinking? After much study and reflection, I decided that yeah, there was something.

But I didn’t immediately rush back to Christianity. Instead, I studied different versions of god professed across history and cultures. It was a slow walk back to God and then to Christ. So I recognize what it feels like to doubt, to question, to even shove off what you previously thought was true and suspect it’s not truth after all. Questioning your faith doesn’t make you a bad person. It puts you in the company of many Christians across ages who long for “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

But let me address the questions you have with real answers.

Yes, God is there.

It’s hard to feel like God is there with you in your pain. Although He’s omnipresent, He’s also invisible to us. You can’t slide over on the couch and say, “Have a seat, God. Let’s talk face-to-face about my problems.” While some Christians say they always feel God’s presence, many of us don’t. Plenty of us reach out to God and end up identifying with these poignant lyrics from BarlowGirl in “Never Alone”:

I waited for you today
But you didn’t show, no no no
I needed you today
So where did you go?
You told me to call
Said you’d be there
And though I haven’t seen you
Are you still there?

I cried out with no reply
And I can’t feel you by my side…

When you’re still in the pit, when your pain is deep, when you can’t feel Him there…how do you believe that He is?

The truth is, I can see God’s presence in my life more clearly when I look back on things than when I’m in the moment. But more importantly, a lot of whether I felt God there depended on how much I truly invited Him in. Did I want God to just come fix things? Or did I want God to use that experience to draw me closer into a relationship with Him?

Isaiah 43:2 is the verse I lean on, over and over in my life:

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

The Bible tells us repeatedly in one way or another that this life will suck. Not every moment or every day, of course, but there’s a substantial amount of suckage involved in taking the journey through human existence. God doesn’t promise to take away those times when we have to “pass through the waters” and “walk through the fire.” But our Lord says, “I will be with you,” and He will get us through those tough times if we recognize Him, invite Him in, and lean on Him.

That’s why the chorus of “Never Alone” ends with:

So I’ll hold tight to what I know
You’re here, and I’m never alone.

But free will means others can hurt you.

You know how much you want your spouse to express their love through sexual intimacy? God recognizes the same thing: Love and goodness shouldn’t be coerced. In the Genesis 2 account of Adam and Eve, God’s first words to Adam are, “You are free…” God then describes that Adam can eat from any tree in the garden he wants, but it would be super-bad idea to eat the fruit of one particular tree.

Of course, we all know how the story turns out. Adam and Eve sin — and we all would have done the same if we’d been in the Garden of Eden ourselves. Likewise, we mess up a lot in our own lives, free to make choices that hurt us and others around us. You have that right from God … and so does your spouse.

That’s why I’ve said about a hundred times on my blog that the only one you can change in your marriage is you. Don’t get me wrong: You have influence. You can clam up or communicate. You can enable or set boundaries. You can seethe in anger or reach out in kindness. But you can’t make your spouse want to have sex with you. And if you think God enforced it, you’re asking Him to take away your spouse’s free will. Which, it seems biblically clear to me, He won’t do.

And you might not be as good a spouse as you think.

Judging your own performance as a spouse, you might come out looking like a Grand Champion. You certainly feel like you’ve done everything a loving mate would do, and yet it’s made no difference whatsoever.

But what if you’re doing the wrong things? For instance, you might not be speaking your spouse’s love language. Perhaps you’re performing many acts of service, when your spouse wishes you’d put down the tools or the fry-pan and spend time with them.

You could be misconstruing the underlying problem that keeps your mate from jumping into bed with you. Maybe you’re trying to make the case for why sex is important in marriage, but your spouse has real physiological obstacles or sexual baggage that make her view sex as untenable.

Or you might just be in a pain in the patootie about the whole issue: You think you’re being reasonable and persuasive, but you come across as nagging and demanding. Your unpleasantness in this specific area might make it not so much fun to live with you in general. Which means you lose your overall appeal, further making your case for “let’s have sex” a tough sell.

Look, I’ve been there, done that. So I know that it’s possible to believe you’re doing great when it doesn’t feel that way to your spouse. That’s why it’s important to ask your spouse how they think and feel, and then shut up and listen. We reveal ourselves to others when we feel safe and heard. So be a safe person for your spouse to communicate with, and recognize that it takes time to reach that point.

It comes down to this: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12). You want to see God working? Let Him work through You to change how fully you love your spouse.

Finally, the blessing isn’t always obvious.

It seems fair for God to reward us in the area where we’ve been faithful. When we pray for our marriage, behave as a faithful spouse, and pursue righteous sexual intimacy within that covenant relationship, shouldn’t God show up? Where we are most hurting? Where we most welcome God’s divine intervention?

Galatians 6:7-10 says:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

We will reap what we sow, but not always in the same season or the same field. Plus, our motives and perseverance matter.

Even if we are entirely faithful toward our spouse regarding sexuality, it’s possible we don’t reach the sexual intimacy that God ideally wants us to have. It’s not because He doesn’t care. He does, but see the free will point above.

But here’s the thing: As much as it stinks to wait and wait and wait, and to suffer through a sexless marriage, I don’t believe sex is better than Heaven. No one gets to Heaven having endured that kind of hardship while still being Christ-like to their spouse and says, “Man, if only I could go back and have an orgasm!”

It was pointed out to me in the comments that the refused spouse isn’t struggling with lack of orgasm but the emotional pain of rejection. Yes, that was an extremely poor word choice on my part — which doesn’t even reflect what I believe. As I’ve said many times, if it was just about the physical release, your spouse could get that without you. But sex has deeper meaning, and those in sexless marriages experience it as a rejection of their desirability, their identity, and their love. Ask a number of refused spouses how they feel, and you’ll hear the word lonely a lot. That is the heartbreak of a sexless marriage.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do everything within your influence to address the sexlessness in your marriage. I say quite the opposite all over my blog. However, taking an eternal perspective, just because you can’t see the reward right now in the area where you most want it at this moment doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a very worthwhile reward for you.

Hebrews 11:6 puts it this way: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Sexual intimacy is important to your marriage. But not as important as your faith in God and our Savior Jesus Christ. I pray the Spirit will reveal to you how God is there in the midst of your pain, how you can continue to be faithful, and how you will be rewarded in due season … if you do not give up.

Can I plead with you to just sit down honestly with God and ask for His strength to keep your faith going? To speak to mature Christians who can answer your questions? To pursue fresh ideas and ways of dealing with the sexlessness in your marriage?

After a few complaints in the comments section, I want to clarify that I am NOT saying you shouldn’t use your influence to pursue sexual intimacy in your marriage, because you should. In other posts, I’ve spoken clearly about talking to your spouse, my belief that ongoing sexual refusal in marriage is a sin), and how just saying to pray for your marriage isn’t enough. I’ve addressed the issue of sexless in marriage, tried to explain how hurtful it is to the refused spouse, and explained that sex is 100% part of the marriage covenant. But none of that goes against my assertion in this post that God is not to blame for the emotional pain you’re going through, and in such troubled times, we should draw closer to Him, not further away. Please, if you are in a sexless marriage, keep pursuing righteous intimacy, but also pursue righteousness simply in your relationship with God. – added 10/13/17

I can’t say I know what’s it’s like to be you, but I know it’s tough. Please know that my prayers also go up that you will hold onto God and not lose your faith.

same pic as above, sized for Pinterest

66 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “My Sexless Marriage Is Making Me Lose My Faith in God””

  1. J, excellent post. May I recommend C. S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” to your readers? He makes pain understandable. He does not try to make it palatable. Pain hurts.

    If I hadn’t had a job as a church musician, during the years I was limited and then completely refused, I would have stopped going to church. My faith in God almost went under. But He met me in my need and carried me through. Our sexual intimacy has been restored, but what if it hadn’t? I’ve learned the perspective you write about. In the big scheme of things, it’s important to keep an eternal view. We can’t imagine what God has in store for His children. So while the pain of a sexless marriage (or health crisis, or loss of a loved one, or financial ruin, or whatever) is horrible, Jesus bore it on Calvary for me so that I can have eternal joy.

    I think the main loss in a sexless marriage is not the loss of the fulfillment of a physical need. I think it’s the loneliness. And that’s multiplied when it feels like even God has abandoned you. I heard a sermon where the preacher said something that stayed with me during all the pain of being sexually refused. He said, What you know trumps what you feel. I knew my wife loved me, but I didn’t feel it. I knew God was there, but I didn’t feel it. I had to keep going back to that and holding on to the facts. It was a long and tiring battle, and many times I wanted to give up, but God”s grace got me through.

    1. This is so insightful, Bob. Thank you for sharing.

      Yes, I agree it’s the loneliness — and the sense that your spouse is neglecting you at a core level. Very often, that’s not how the refusing spouse sees it, but it’s how the refused spouse experiences it. I do know that many marriages held on and did have a reawakening of their sexual intimacy in later years, and I’ve never one of them say they wish they hadn’t kept going.

      I think a lot of why I’ve held on to God through so much is this verse: “Simon Peter answered [Jesus], ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God'” (John 6:68-69). Whenever I’ve been frustrated about how things are going, I stop and realize that while I don’t understand God’s plan fully, HE is THE GOD, the one and only, with words of eternal life, and I have to trust and believe that He will take care of me.

      Oh, and yeah, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN is an excellent read.

  2. Being in the situation, this is not the response I wanted to hear… But I can’t disagree with you. Thank you for being brutally truthful about what the Bible says God will or will not do. I have not given up but it is a tough position to be in and it can really shake your faith. Keep praying for those of us living with this 🙂

    1. I agree it’s very tough. My heart goes out to you. I truly do believe that God can buoy us in the storms of life. But I also don’t want to want to be one of those who profess that if you’ll just do A, B, and C, then God will make everything smooth for you in this life. Because that’s just not what the Bible says, nor quite honestly does it grow us as people or make us rely on God. Praying for you right this moment.

    1. I haven’t read that one, but I trust your judgment. And for others reading, Nick Peters has a website where he speaks to apologetics; that is, reasoned defense of the Christian faith.

  3. I’m going to try to keep this brief….
    Approximately three tears ago I discovered your blog, along with a couple others, as I searched for help AFTER I was unfaithful to my wife. After several months of counseling we both realized our marriage was irretrievable (at least in my timing) so after 39 years of marriage we divorced.
    Despite being a lifelong Christian I was NOT being a godly husband. Although neither of us were aware of it, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (anger, criticism, resentment and stonewalling) were present in our marriage. The result of years and years of the dysfunctional relationships (between myself and my wife AND myself and my Lord) was devastating.
    The last 15 years of our marriage was virtually without sex and/or intimacy due to my shortcomings. However, I chose to blame my wife and God. I stopped attending church and stopped tithing because I was tired of being a hypocrite. That was when I began my search for someone to fulfill all I was lacking in my marriage.
    Needless to say, BIGGEST mistake of my life. I now have an “ex-wife” and strained relations with our four adult children (and nine grandchildren). I wish we could have fixed things but the damage from my infidelity was too great. The years of hurtful words and actions resulted in the loss of our love for one another.
    Thanks be to God that his forgiveness is available to those who confess and repent. My first step in re-making myself was restoring my relationship with my Lord and Savior. I am now a very grateful husband to a wonderful wife in a marriage as God intended. One thing I enjoy most is praying together. It feels good to be a godly husband/man and treat my wife with the love and respect she deserves and enjoys.
    I appreciate your blog.

  4. I have to say I have been in a sexless marriage for a while now, I absolutely hate it. Hubby refuses to discuss it with me and we are both in counseling, my go to verse is Ephesians 4:6 One God the Father of all, who is in all things, over all things, and through all things. Our trust in God shouldn’t be a passive trust, it an active one as we seek to improve and transform ourselves, learn the grace of forgiveness even when we don’t feel like it and remain in abiding with the Father, who hears all, sees all and will redeem our messes somehow , someday in His time. It is a lonely path, a sad and grief filled path and I cry daily, but I am still toning to work on me because I can’t change him, and our story is complicated by have a child who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder – crazy complicated

    1. You have touched on the heart of the matter. And my heart goes out to you. I read a little of your blog and there are things that do put this sex starvation in a less urgent class of concerns. Blessings and directly answered prayers are my hope for you.

  5. Intellectually and logically I believe there’s a God — and most likely the God of the Christian bible.

    Emotionally, though, it’s much harder. As I’m In a nearly sexless marriage, and seeing how the church has battered and beaten both my father and brother (both pastors), I find it hard to get any warm fuzzies about a religion that eats its own and barely changes the people profess it.

    My family would be aghast to hear that my doubts are serious and profound, particularly my wife. I’m working through it, but my current home situation living with a Christian wife, and my past experiences in the church are going to make me quite seriously question my faith for the rest of my life.

    1. It pains my heart when churches damage believers. Frankly, I’ve seen both sides — bodies of believers that have hurt people and others who have supported and loved them. I always tell people to look for the latter, and even find the people within a church who will be your encouragers. Plenty of Christians really do want to embrace others with Christ-like love.

      Praying for you. And for your wife to have an awakening.

    2. Sir. I would be glad to dialogue with you on the nature of your doubts. I can’t be a therapist for your marriage, but I can work with you through your doubts.

      In Christ,
      Nick Peters

  6. I can fully see getting to heaven and not caring about an orgasm, but it would be very very hard to go through life without children, and depending on when the refusal starts, that’s a real thing. I am paying for IVF because my husband refuses to have sex with me more than once a month. (Fingers crossed that the transfer works next month.) And I will regret, in this life, not knowing what it was like to be loved or have someone look happy to see me. That may not be, and probably won’t be, something that bothers me in heaven, but that doesn’t really lessen the grief here.

    I mean, would you just shrug if your family were tragically killed because, you know, it’s all good in heaven? I would find that cold comfort.

    C.S. Lewis wrote something so very true in A Grief Observed. “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”

    I believe in God. I haven’t stopped believing. I’ve been faithful. I try to be a good wife and a good person. I accept the nature of free will and that life isn’t always fair.

    But none of that is comforting. It’s not a consolation. It’s simply a fact. It just is.

    I think the purpose of this post is to try to refocus on God when you’re losing your faith, and that’s a really fair thing to bring up. (When I lost 3 of my embryos during IVF, I had about a solid week of weeping and asking why God was doing this to me. Reading A Grief Observed helped me refocus.)

    But it’s different if you are trying to say that cosmically a sexless marriage isn’t a big deal. It’s like telling someone with a broken back and chronic pain how you should really be all “mind over matter” and realize pain is a temporary phenomenon. It never stops. There is no break in pain. It may ebb and flow, you may find ways to mitigate it, but it is always there.

    I am happy most days. I control my own life and attitude. But unless science works, I will never have children. I will never know, even once, what it is like for someone to look at me with desire. I will never be loved. I will always be lonely. I have to carry all my burdens by myself because there is no one to help me. I will always know that my husband married me for money and for stability and that I, as a person, will never matter to anyone ever.

    I am glad you have a happy marriage and a loving husband, a good sex life, and adorable children. I’m glad you have a ministry and a purpose. But maybe you shouldn’t tell someone who has been willfully denied those things that I should just buck up because I won’t care when I’m in heaven.

    1. Whoa.
      • “I mean, would you just shrug if your family were tragically killed because, you know, it’s all good in heaven? I would find that cold comfort.”
      • “But it’s different if you are trying to say that cosmically a sexless marriage isn’t a big deal.”
      • “I am glad you have a happy marriage and a loving husband, a good sex life, and adorable children. I’m glad you have a ministry and a purpose. But maybe you shouldn’t tell someone who has been willfully denied those things that I should just buck up because I won’t care when I’m in heaven.”

      I would not let a commenter make such accusations against someone else on my blog, and I won’t let you make them about me. You have read my blog, and you KNOW I don’t believe that a sexless marriage is “no big deal.” Nor do I think knowing about Heaven suddenly makes everything okay. And my marriage has been in the pit, the basement, six feet under, and after years finally had a resurrection. So the “happy marriage and a loving husband” didn’t come out of nowhere. (As for my children, you don’t know them so I don’t why you’re assuming they’re “adorable,” even if I am rather partial to them.)

      Look, I’m speaking from a place of Been There, Done That, and taking an eternal perspective really does help some people. Otherwise, why would Paul bother to say to PERSECUTED Christians…?

      “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

      Personally, I think the best thing Job’s friends ever did for him when he lost everything was just come sit for three days. Just shut up and feel compassion for the stink that his life seemed to be at that point. And I do that…a lot. I just sit here at my laptop and ache for people in sexless or sex-conflicted marriages. I long to hold their hand and cry with them. But I can’t be there. And the mission God has called me to involves answering questions people ask me. I did that with this post. But if something in my post makes you feel worse than better, I suggest you skip it. Perhaps it wasn’t meant for you, but it will help someone else.

      And let me say finally that I have not experienced the pain of infertility; I’ve only been close to others who went through that challenge. But I recognize that pain must be great, and I do pray that you will feel God’s presence in your life. I pray that your husband will be awakened to see what’s going on and take steps to change it. I pray for you two to have unity.

      But I pray not only for the sex lives but the souls of people who come to my blog.

      1. It was this:

        “No one gets to Heaven having endured that kind of hardship while still being Christ-like to their spouse and says, “Man, if only I could go back and have an orgasm!”

        I’m not saying you shouldn’t do everything within your influence to address the sexlessness in your marriage. I say quite the opposite all over my blog. However, taking an eternal perspective, just because you can’t see the reward right now in the area where you most want it at this moment doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a very worthwhile reward for you.”

        The pain of a sexless marriage isn’t the lack of orgasm, and it feels trivializing and dismissive for it to be equated to that. The pain of a sexless marriage is the rejection and the loss of love.

        I get that low libido spouses think that sex is all about the physical, and if you’ve ever read the Deadbedrooms Reddit, then you know that really is all it’s about for about half of the people there. They want the big O and the relationship only matters if it delivers. But it’s not true for everyone.

        Even the verse is about people being persecuted for their faith, and Paul was saying that their faith would be requited. It wasn’t empty, it had a future. It had a purpose. Marriage vanishes in heaven, so my marriage is only here on earth. If this persists, I may get a heavenly reward for my faith and perseverance, but I will never be requited in love.

        1. I agree with all of that, sunny-dee. And you’re right that my comment just about orgasm didn’t sit right. I apologize. Poor choice of words on my part.

          What I would say is that I still don’t think I’m going to get to Heaven and be inconsolable about the lack of love, even from a husband, here. I think I will feel great compassion for the person I was, but being in God’s presence will fill all those empty places for us.

        2. I couldn’t stop thinking about your very valid point, so I’ve updated the post to include this:

          No one gets to Heaven having endured that kind of hardship while still being Christ-like to their spouse and says, “Man, if only I could go back and have an orgasm!”

          It was pointed out to me in the comments that the refused spouse isn’t struggling with lack of orgasm but the emotional pain of rejection. Yes, that was an extremely poor word choice on my part — which doesn’t even reflect what I believe. As I’ve said many times, if it was just about the physical release, your spouse could get that without you. But sex has deeper meaning, and those in sexless marriages experience it as a rejection of their desirability, their identity, and their love. Ask a number of refused spouses how they feel, and you’ll hear the word lonely a lot. That is the heartbreak of a sexless marriage.

          Thanks for calling me out on something that isn’t even what I profess all over this blog. I do appreciate when readers point out areas in which I just make a terrible mistake, which I want to own and correct.

    2. I can feel the pain and loneliness in your post. If you are counting on children to fill an emptiness and provide you with love, you may be very disappointed. Children are a wonderful blessing, but they also require a lot of sacrifice. Children also need both parents to love each other and them.

      I know in your pain it may be very hard, but try to look to God to fill your unmet needs. (Yes- I know that sounds unhelpful in your lonely situation. I had the same reaction when I was given that advice). I have felt the hopelessness that you speak of, and I have felt unloved. (It is rather easy to sink into a place of selfishness where we focus too much on us) But God can help. Please know that I am truly praying for you and your situation, and for your husband as well.

      1. No, I’m not looking to children to fill any void other than “having children.” There is so much wrapped up in family that, frankly, fertile people take very much for granted because it’s there. Like, who do I give my grandmother’s emerald ring to? Who wants to carve a jack-o-lantern? It’s those small moments that fill up memories. Some of that comes from children, as it also comes from other places.

        1. I wavered on that comment, sunny-dee. But I know K is coming from a place of heartfelt compassion.

          Yes, those who haven’t been through infertility don’t fully understand, but we do feel for your pain. And it does seem on this side at times that those who cannot currently conceive see our situation as more ideal than it actually is, so I know it’s hard to figure out how to address that too.

        2. sunny-dee-
          My sincere apologies if my comment came out wrong. I do not have a great gift with words. I want so badly to convey my true ache for you and your situation. That lonely, unloved feeling can leave you feeling so hopeless. And to badly want children is a God given desire for most women. I truly hope and pray that God would work in your marriage and the lives of you and your husband.

  7. Great post, J. I think it can speak to those of us that are in other kinds of painful situations as well.

  8. I’m in this situation and have been for 18 years. My husband is a recovered porn addict. I believe he can’t make the connection between love and sex. If I initiate, he says no. On the rare occasion he does (usually out of guilt), it’s robotic and he usually falls asleep during foreplay. He told me that it just doesn’t occur to him to have sex. He tells me that he finds me attractive and that I turn him on but I never see/hear that happening. When we fight about it, he tells me not to lose hope, it will get better this time and that he’s going to try. Every, single, time. I hurt so badly. I can’t love him and not desire to be intimate with him. The only way to stop the pain for me is to stop loving him. I pray about this telling God I can’t do this anymore. It’s affecting my joy in all aspects of my life. I regret marrying him. Divorce isn’t an easy option as we have 3 kids and a business we own together. I truly agree with all that you’ve written in this article. I’ve told this to other friends in marital difficulty. I’ve told this to myself. The hurt just won’t stop.

    1. I ache for you. I pray that he has a change of heart. But since I want your marriage restored, you might want to also look into intervention. Maybe there’s something you could do that would make a difference.

      Praying also for your wisdom in this area. Many blessings!

  9. I’ve been thinking about the difference between wounds and scars, I was wounded terribly as a boy by sexual abuse and still carry those scars. But a scar shows a wound that has healed, at least to some extent. You don’t ever completely get over it. The back of my hand got burned when I was about 8. The scar, 52 years later, is barely visible. But when I remember the burn, I can still remember the pain. My wounds from a sexless marriage are pretty much healed. But there is remembered pain, and regrets, and grief.

    I agree that words can seem empty to someone with the wound still open and bleeding. But someone, preferably someone who has “been there,” needs to be able to speak the truth in a bad situation. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not even in words at first. I’ve always thought Job’s comforters did a good thing until they opened their mouths.

    I think that this is part of how the Body of Christ should, and can, work. When one rejoices, all rejoice. When one hurts, all hurt. But not all are equally positioned to address the pain. Someone who has had the same or similar experience and has come out the other side may be able to help where the Bible expert, the preacher, the teacher, can do nothing.

    Lewis’ “A Grief Observed” is a profound book. He lays out on the table for all to see what most of us never speak to anyone. But I urge those in spiritual crisis due to a sexless marriage, or anything else at all, to hang on to the truth that God is there, He does love you, and somewhere there is another Christian who will be able to be the support you need in the flesh.

  10. I have been in a sex starved marriage for 35+ years. I have been angry at God and blamed Him for difficult life situations. My anger has diminished over the years as I realize God has given us free will and there are consequences to our decisions/actions in my life. I do cling to hope for eternal life in heaven. Some days I wish that I was in heaven now….

  11. I’m a regular reader of your blog and I am thankful for the work you do. Seriously.
    This post makes some really sound and valid points but I think it is a little incomplete. Yes, as Christians in a sexless marriage we are to go to God and leave our burdens with Him but that is not the end of the matter. I always get the impression in posts like this one that we are called to pray, focus on our future rewards in heaven and hope the situation changes and if it doesn’t? Trust God.
    The fact of the matte is that Christian marriage is a sexual relationship for it is only within marriage that we get our sexual needs met. We are not to seek sex elsewhere with other people. When a spouse REFUSES to have sex bottom line that is a form of abandonment and abuse and there should be loving consequences for the refusing spouse not just an oh well, let me keep praying and hoping that it gets better. Counseling is appropriate, perhaps in involvement with a church elder, etc. I have compassion on those who refuse and for those who are refused sex. There are reasons on both sides and both parties need to be willing to look at those issues and get healing. However when a spouse refuses sex and also refuses to do anything about it i.e. attend counseling etc. there should be next steps, consequences rather than just accepting it and hoping and praying things get better.

    This issue has come up before and with all due respect it seems like those next steps aren’t offered. Chronic refusal of intimacy is deadly serious. It’s one thing if a spouse can’t engage in regular sex due to illness, military deployment, etc but this situation is not about can’t but it’s a “won’t.”
    Clearly the CHURCH and her people need help in this area and couples need discipleship around the issue of sex.
    Blessings to you and your work.

    1. These are all valid points. And I agree wholeheartedly that next steps should be taken. I absolutely do not believe in just praying and doing nothing else. You can see that from this very recent post: My Biggest Problem with “Pray for Your Marriage”

      Let me be practical here, though. Two of the hardest things I talk about with other marriage bloggers are:
      1. You don’t want a post to go on forever. I try to keep my posts less than 1500 words, and this one was already at 1950 words. So bloggers are often faced with the question of whether to launch into other things that could be said or whether to hope the general tone and theme of their blog come through — that is, that a single post will not representative of their entire message. (How could it be?)
      2. You write to a specific situation, and it’s assumed that answer can be applied everywhere. When I answer Q&As, there are almost always particular issues that aren’t at work in many other marriages. So should I have a caveat for those? Each time?

      I’m certainly not excusing myself here. And I’m taking to heart the concerns a few of you have mentioned and want to update my post with a sentence or two clarifying that “suck it up” or “just pray and look for Heaven” is absolutely not the answer I’m giving here. But I do want to be authentic with y’all and explain why it’s so hard on this side of things sometimes to cover everything you want to cover … and not go on and on until the Second Coming.

      Thanks for your well-meaning and fair-minded comment.

      1. I’m not one that condones divorce, but doesn’t a sex starved marriage seem like a likely reason? It’s like an affair of narcissism or something of the like. It really is cruel. It’s hard to hear about people experiencing this for such lengths of time. I see necessary breaks for illnesses, etc., but years ? That’s horrible.

        1. I believe divorce is a last option. For instance, I would not tear apart my family, keeping a father from seeing his children daily and investing in their lives, due solely to sexlessness that might be resolved in a few years. Will he hurt me? Oh yeah. It’ll hurt a lot emotionally. But divorce should make a situation better, not worse, and too many studies show that divorce is bad for kids unless you’re in an abusive or high-conflict marriage (and yes, in abusive situations, get out).

          Others may make a different decision, but I believe in doing absolutely everything you can do to address a sexless marriage before you end a marriage, and thus a family. That’s my two cents.

      2. Thank you for your reply. You can’t address every nuance in the problems presented here specifically around spouses who chronically refuse sex. However if we fundamentally believe that marriage is a sexual relationship, that it is God’s desire that we enjoy sex with our spouse and that chronic refusal of intimacy is a sin then our advice to couples facing this situation will ALWAYS include a reminder that we are to GET HELP in addressing this problem. ALWAYS.
        Oftentimes the advice to continue to pray and endure is seen as more Godly than advice that says we are to lovingly confront our spouse, involve others in our struggle (counselors, elders, etc.) invite change and if change is not forthcoming institute consequences.

        1. Look, I GET it. But at this point, I think some people are skimming the places where I did say to work toward better intimacy and just concentrating on the messages in my post that are tough. I hate that anyone feels hurt by my words, but I also believe all the points I made to be true. And THAT is what is especially hard — that God calls us to be faithful to Him regardless of our circumstances. Doesn’t that mean you just take it? No, of course not! We also should be working toward justice and unity and true peace.

          But I do want to point out that I didn’t neglect working on your marriage:

          Don’t get me wrong: You have influence. You can clam up or communicate. You can enable or set boundaries. You can seethe in anger or reach out in kindness.”
          I’m not saying you shouldn’t do everything within your influence to address the sexlessness in your marriage. I say quite the opposite all over my blog.”

  12. Yes God is there. He knows your name and is calling us to himself. In my 40 years of marriage I have decided that He is more interested in my holiness than he is with my sexual fulfillment. We are all broken at some point, and my wife just does not have the capacity to enjoy sex or to negotiate on the topic. It hurts and words don’t make that go away. I just hope I don’t do something stupid! I also don’t tolerate trite or formulaic responses on the topic of sexual deprivation. Thank you so much for your insightful blog and your willingness to put even your most sensitive failures on public view.

  13. I added the following paragraph to this post, but for those who already read the post and are following the comment thread, I wanted y’all to see it:

    After a few complaints in the comments section, I want to clarify that I am NOT saying you shouldn’t use your influence to pursue sexual intimacy in your marriage, because you should. In other posts, I’ve spoken clearly about talking to your spouse, my belief that ongoing sexual refusal in marriage is a sin), and how just saying to pray for your marriage isn’t enough. I’ve addressed the issue of sexless in marriage, tried to explain how hurtful it is to the refused spouse, and explained that sex is 100% part of the marriage covenant. But none of that goes against my assertion in this post that God is not to blame for the emotional pain you’re going through, and in such troubled times, we should draw closer to Him, not further away. Please, if you are in a sexless marriage, keep pursuing righteous intimacy, but also pursue righteousness simply in your relationship with God. – added 10/13/17

    1. Great post and I wish I would have read something like this 3 years ago during the midst of my despair.
      After being in a sexless marriage for 18 years, I drifted away from my wife, was angry with God, and I felt so lonely, abandoned, hopeless and sad. I choose divorce, not just because of the sexless marriage, but it was a major contributor. I’m now in a loving relationship with a women and the sexual intimacy is amazing …… I’m realizing it wasn’t my fault and I am lovable. I appreciate your post and how that you get that sexual intimacy in marriage is important and I only wish my ex-wife would have understood that from day 1 of our marriage.
      Once again great post!!!!

  14. The Bible tells us repeatedly in one way or another that this life will suck. Not every moment or every day, of course, but there’s a substantial amount of suckage involved in taking the journey through human existence.

    I love this line J. Laughing at the truth and your bluntness

  15. This blog post could have been titled “My (fill in the blank) Is Making Me Lose My Faith in God.” Yes, this is a marriage blog, and we talk a lot about sex here. But it could be My cancer is making me lose faith. My kid killed by a drunk driver. My financial ruin from an embezzling employee. For me, it was My sexual abuse as a boy. These are all painful, horrible things to endure. But the underlying principle is the same. Either God is there or He is not. There is a heaven or there is not. I am saved eternally or I am not.

    My wife had an epiphany 15 years ago. It was one of those moments where reality sinks in. She said she finally understood that she can trust no human being, including me, including herself. Everyone and everything will fail me at some point. Through betrayal, through loss, through distance, through death. Eventually my body will give out. But I’m promised a new one in a place where God Himself will wipe away every tear.

    So what about now? A sexless marriage is horrible because it’s a betrayal in a relationship. So it was with my abusers. So it is with a drunk driver, an embezzler, a murderer. My son has a disease that is controlled with daily medicine. But if anything goes wrong, he could be dead in a few hours. Do I question God? You bet! But I have to keep going back to what I know. God is there and He loves me, even if nobody else does.

    Many of the comments here have turned to a discussion of refusal and how wrong it is and how we seem helpless to do anything about it. The post was about how this affects my relationship with God. My time of being refused made me question God, but it made me question my wife more. And she had doubts about my love. As Christians, we cling to God, and we offer comfort as we can, help where we are able, and at the very least cover our brothers and sisters with prayer.

    There is no easy, quick answer, and we can never shrug off someone’s problem. If I cut my finger, at that moment, it’s the most important problem in the world. Some pains will never be eased in this life. But we have a living, loving God who promises restoration and eternal joy. Yes, this life often sucks, often sucks REAL badly. But this is a fallen world. Creation itself is groaning in anticipation of the resurrection and restoration. Hang on to that hopeful fact, even in the darkest night of the soul.

    1. Thank you. I agree that so much in this life is tough. For me, the thought of so many children being sexually abused nearly paralyzes me. But the knowledge and faith that our just and loving God is there provides hope. I know it’s a thin hope for those whose heart and gut are wrenching with emotional pain, but it is hope. For “Now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Psalm 37:7, worth reading the whole psalm).

  16. Another thought on this topic: Why do we expect fulfillment, sexual or otherwise in marriage? It’s because that’s the way it’s “supposed to be.” We enter marriage with expectations, not always clarified or even voiced. Then we make vows to each other. Part of pre-marital counseling should be expectations, about sex, conversation, time spent, affirmation, material blessings, etc. in other words, we need to learn each other’s love languages and take vows with our eyes wide open.

    But when we think of this logically, a vow from from my wife isn’t the same as a promise from God. I trust her, I love her, and as human beings go, she’s pretty remarkable. I think she thinks the same about me. 🙂 But I can’t put any failings of hers on God, and I won’t do that, unless I somehow think that God is responsible for the failings of others.

    It was well known to my wife before we got married that one thing that drives me crazy is when inanimate objects don’t work like they are supposed to. It’s one thing if something wears out. But if I buy something and it is defective, overhyped by advertisers, or just doesn’t do what it’s designed to do, I can go nuts. I’m not sure where this came from, maybe in childhood. A shrink would have a field day figuring it out for me. But the real problem is I have expectations that are not beng met.

    Now if I put these expectations on another human, sooner or later, I’m going to be let down. And I do the same by letting others down. It’s just that I can blame others while showing myself a lot of grace (excuses). I need to look at myself first and show more grace to others.

    When it’s my wife who lets me down, it’s easy to blame her. After all, she promised, and that’s the way a marriage “should be.” Yes it is, but in a fallen world, it’s never gong to be like that, at least not all the time. How this is played out in any marriage is beyond me. I really know only my own marriage. But for me to blame God for human failings is logical nonsense. It’s our emotions speaking, often with understandable anger and bitterness. But God has promised to renew this world and all who are in Christ. Let’s be honest with ourselves about blaming and doubting God. It’s because we expect that our marriages or friendships or health or anything in this life “should be” a certain way, and if it doesn’t turn out that way, it must be God’s fault. Recognize that it’s the emotions speaking, not the mind. And hang on the the real facts of God’s love and grace.

    1. I agree with so much of what you said. The only thing I’d say is that refused spouses would argue it’s not a single, a few, or even several times of their spouse letting them down. It’s a pattern of disengagement and not keeping promises. If there was hope that things would get better, say, May 10, 2018 (random date), then a lot of sexless spouses could clench their teeth and wait it out. But they just don’t know if or when it will get better.

      But I agree that all of that isn’t on God. And we should set our expectations that we will need to put a lot of effort into our relationships for them to be healthy, holy, and happy. And even then, we’ll have moments when they just…aren’t. Because, unlike God, we are flawed. Blessings.

  17. All of this discussion, as far as it relates to your original point (losing faith in God) boils down to: If there is an omnipotent God, why does He let bad things happen to good people? Or at the very least, Why me? I deserve better.

    This assumption is questionable. Am I so good I deserve sex in my marriage? Well, doesn’t my wife deserve intimate conversation from me? The point is that we don’t deserve these things. They should be given out of love. And the withholding of them tells us that we are not loved, hence the emotional pain. But we can’t lay that on God. The responsibility lies with the refusing spouse. I think, from my own experience of being refused sexually, is that I expected a loving God to just change it all. Come on, God! Where are You?

    I would clarify my comment above that we don’t deserve these things. We do “deserve” them in that they are our rights as a married couple, as described in 1Corinthians 7. But I like to think I deserve things because I’m such a swell guy! There’s that pesky sin nature rearing its ugly head again. I deserve the just wrath of God for all my sin, but He gave me life through Jesus Christ, instead.

    We were greatly helped by Gary Thomas’ book “Sacred Marriage.” His premise is, What if God is more interested in using your marriage to make you holy, rather than to make you happy? Quite an eye opener there. The old theologians said that the “chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I think that’s borne out in scripture.

    So while the pain of a sexless marriage, the loneliness and desperation, the hopes continually dashed, all this is very real. I know. I experienced it all for about 25 years. But if my theology is correct, God is going to make things right. Not on my timetable, not necessarily in the ways I want, maybe not even in this earthly life. But if my faith is correct, the greatest joys of this world will pale in comparison to the least of the joys of heaven.

    I urge those experiencing the agony of a sexless marriage to keep taking it to God. I don’t know how He will work in your life, but He is there, loving, sustaining, and upholding you in the depths of your pain. Find godly brothers and sisters who can be a tangible help. If you don’t have that, ask God for that kind of help. My pastor is doing a study on Biblical marriage. I told him that he MUST deal with the sin of sexual refusal. I don’t think until I shared my story with him that he had ever thought about it.

    1. Yes, we need to talk about the sin of sexual refusal more in our churches and marriage classes. We have a lot of people sitting in pews with broken hearts over this issue. And some who, as you can see from this post, are ready to walk away from the pew because the primary emotional pain in their life isn’t being addressed by their religion. Yet, God does have answers and He is present.

  18. I’ve been married for 26 years, was separated for a year, and now am in the process of divorce, initiated by me. I was a Christian when we were married and thought he was too (albeit an immature one.) From the honeymoon on, sex was infrequent and almost always awful. I was the one with all the desire and imagination; I was the eager and willing partner that wanted both frequency and variety. Even though he appeared to be a normal man and have at least an average amount of desire when we were dating, after marriage his libido was almost non existent, successful PIV sex was often a physical challenge, and he had abnormal thoughts and feelings about sexual intimacy and the human body. That made our sex life difficult and disappointing. The fact that he used sex and physical affection as a way to control, manipulate, and punish made our sex life degrading and destructive. Even though I was raised in a very prudish manner (not just morally conservative) I thought I would be considered a good wife in that area because I knew I had high desire and was willing and open. Instead I felt ugly, repulsive, deficient, deviant, and unlovable. I had 3 orgasms our whole married life, caused mostly by secret masturbation before sex. I could make myself orgasm easily. It wasn’t the lack of orgasms that killed off all feelings of delighting in my woman’s body or myself as a sexual being and would make me physically sick with emotional pain, it was the feeling of rejection and loneliness from the lack of intimacy and acceptance. I felt like I was dieing inside almost every day. Sometimes, I think without God, I actually would have.

    My feelings about God while going through this living nightmare went back and forth, up and down. I felt it was my Christian obligation to stay and endure. Shame was a frequent relationship killer with God because I felt that my horrible marriage was what I deserved because of past and present sins in my life. And, I hid from Him because I was sure he was disappointed in me because try as I might to be joyful, forgiving, and grateful, I hated my marriage and wanted it to be over even though God gave me strength to keep loving my husband cause that is what I asked for. Spiritually, I knew God does not force His will on a person and that my husband’s choices were not what God would have him do. But, foolishly, I would try to bargain with God because it was futile with my husband. “If we could have sex a few times a month, I won’t think about it anymore. I will be happy and never complain to you God if we could just have sex once a month as long as he seems to want ME there and doesn’t just lie there doing nothing. ” He frequently threatened to leave me and I got angry at God because he never did. Satan deceived me into thinking it meant God wanted me to stay. God finally lead me to the realization that it wasn’t HIS will, it was me placing those chains on myself trying to meet other’s perceived expectations of me and my role as a Christian

    1. Oh, your story makes my heart ache. I hate that you went through that. And this statement in particular struck me: “I felt it was my Christian obligation to stay and endure.” I can name several wives who’ve said that very thing to me. And then I think, What kind of horrible message are we sending that says the problem with an abusive marriage is the abused person needing to be more ‘Christian’ by staying and enduring abuse? Don’t we have an obligation to carry on Jesus’ mission to “to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18)?

      We’re even told in Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” That should includes ourselves, by the way. I’m shocked at times that we will allow ourselves to be mistreated far beyond anything we would ever allow to happen to a friend. And then we label it self-sacrifice, when it’s sadly not upholding God’s cause in our own lives. We need to see ourselves with the value that God ascribes to us. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).

      But the Church has failed too many in this regard. Let me also just quote Gary Thomas on this one: “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.” His post on this issue is well worth reading: Enough Is Enough.

      1. I feel the pain of a sexless marriage, and think churches are failing spouses who are in such a situation. It should be addressed for what it is : sin.

        But I strongly disagree that divorce would be the answer to that. And even worse, to say that suggesting to NOT divorce is the devil talking and churches failing. God hates divorce (Mal 3), and as Christians we’re called to not divorce, and if it has happened to stay single or reconcile with our spouse (1 Co 7:10,11). Ef 5 shows the relationship between man and wife as between Christ and His church. Would Christ abandon the church, or the church abandon Christ? It does show me that sexual intimacy is a beautiful representation of the intimate love between Christ and His church, and how sinful it is to refuse sex to your spouse, denying this most intimate relationship.

        Again, it’s the failure of the church to not address the sin of sexual refusal, it’s not the church failure to deny a divorce.

        1. Sometimes I hear from a commenter where it’s a done deal, and I respond a bit differently then. I do agree that God hates divorce, but there are some truly abusive situations where a spouse needs to leave. I don’t make those judgments for individuals, though. And I generally think that being in a sexless marriage isn’t a reason to leave without other issues involved: Is Refusing Sex in Marriage a Sin?

  19. Even though I never completely rejected God or turned away from him, many times He felt distant. Looking back, most of the time I was the one that put that distance there. God was not my priority even though I would have said he was. My time and energy were spent trying to please my husband and trying to figure out what I could do to make the marriage work, how I could make him love me, or how I could survive the constant torment.

    In the midst of my husband’s cruelty or neglect, I would think that if he would only allow God to heal him spiritually and he would become the good husband and father I thought he had the potential to be, that it would be a lot easier to live without much of a sex life. I felt that me wanting sexual intimacy was carnal and of little importance. I prayed and prayed for God to take my desire away and would get angry at Him because He did not answer that prayer. I wasn’t asking Him to force my husband to change, I was asking for Him to change something in me. I couldn’t understand why God did not grant a request that I thought would make me a better Christian and wife so I doubted His presence and His love a lot of times. But always, when I gave up and was too sad or weary to strive on my own anymore, He showed me He loved me; He saw my hurt; He cared. When I could no longer hide behind my intellect and self help books, my legalistic spiritual upbringing, or church regulations that had nebulous Biblical foundations, He altered my thinking and started to reform my spirit.

    My life is harder now than it has ever been. My husband has done everything he threatened to do except commit suicide or disappear and take the kids away. My future is totally uncertain and downright scary. I often feel judged, misrepresented, and abandoned. But I also have never felt so blessed, so loved, so free, and so at peace. God saw it all even if no one else did. He knows I wasn’t perfect and failed miserably to put Him and His will first. But He also knows I loved with my whole being to the best of my ability and held nothing back. He gave me grace when I couldn’t give it to myself and thought no one else would give it to me either.

    He loves me….wholly, completely, righteously… and He loves each person going through the pain of a difficult marriage. He sees you and He cares deeply, even about sex. Married sex is not trivial, carnal, or selfish. He meant it as a precious gift to express love and unity. When a spouse is not given that gift, it is not God’s will and does not have His approval. It is human error and sin.

    1. I think this is insightful for many struggling marriages: “God was not my priority even though I would have said he was. My time and energy were spent trying to please my husband and trying to figure out what I could do to make the marriage work…” I personally relate to that comment.

      As for your statement that “My husband has done everything he threatened to do except commit suicide or disappear and take the kids away,” I hope you’re not allowing yourself and your kids to remain in an abusive situation — which certainly isn’t God’s desire. I don’t know your circumstances, but if you’re being regularly mistreated by your spouse, you should address it as much as possible with boundaries (which could involve leaving) and getting help. Praying for you.

  20. Hi J, I just wanted to let you know I liked this post and found it helpful, as well as the following post on How to Pray for Your Spouse.
    As you well know, I’m the high drive wife and I have been refused and felt rejected in the past (thankfully it’s getting better). And I’m so thankful that I didn’t lose my faith in God, or blame Him. I think because we’ve been through a lot, and God has never forsaken us. I’m nowhere near perfect, but I do believe God is always there and always loves me, even when things get rough.
    I also agree that the pain of being sexually refused is deep, and for me was far more about rejection, being made to feel very ugly, undesirable, unwanted, and unloved. It was never really about the sex itself. I think you did a good job covering that point.
    I also think I understood what you were saying, when we all get to Heaven, the things of earth will greatly pale in comparison. Our earthly minds cannot even begin to imagine the wonders God has for us in Heaven. It’s hard to wrap my brain around all that, but I’m looking forward to it.
    Thank you for ministering to us, even – and especially – when it’s tough.

  21. Pingback: Is the Church Failing Sexless Marriages? | Hot, Holy & Humorous

  22. I suppose I can understand why people would feel like that. Seeing comments like those in your post have impressed upon me the importance of sex in marriage (which I may have been tempted to overlook or minimize otherwise).

    But really, if there is no God, sex is the least of your problems. Without God, everything is meaningless. Sex is meaningless, pain is meaningless, marriage is meaningless, society, art, music, love, civilization and the entire universe is meaningless. Without God, there are really only 3 rational responses to the universe: hedonism (grab every pleasure you can for tomorrow you die) which is ultimately just distracting yourself from a meaningless and hollow existence, defiance (avoiding the issue) and despair (suicide. Or destroying the universe if you happen to be in an anime).

  23. I read this and thought, “Sigh. Yep. That’s me” Why is this such a struggle? I have a wonderful wife and we are healthy with good jobs. We enjoy being together and share many common interests. We have loving, adult children and share our lives peacefully with extended family. And yet there is always a distance between us when it comes to intimacy. It’s not refusal on her part or unreasonable expectations on my part, but it’s still a struggle. An arms-length, “Let’s not get into that now, maybe next time, I don’t know, we’ll see, that doesn’t sound interesting, why isn’t it enough?, I wish we could talk about it, that doesn’t make sense, please don’t bring that up any more” kind of distance.

    When we were married, we were both on the same page, starting from scratch sexually, and at the same place with our faith, but over the years, we’ve grown differently. I didn’t say apart, although often that is how it feels to me. I try very hard not to make it feel that way to her. My wife is still fervently faithful, but over the years, I’ve found my faith waning, specifically as a result of being unable to reconcile intimacy in our marriage. We’ve tried but she’s finally ask if we can simply not talk about it any more. She says it makes her feel bad about herself. I try to honor that request, but it has worn me down. I hate that it has taken me here, but I am exactly where you describe. Am I such an insensitive jerk that I can’t see beyond myself? Are we being disingenuous with each other? Is this a test, or just reality? Does it matter which?

    I know the responses: “It’s sin separating you, not God” “God is working good through your struggles.” “Be grateful for what you have” “Pray” “Begin by changing yourself” “Ask God into your heart and your marriage” “This is selfishness”. “Ask yourself what is best for your spouse.” “If you loved her as Christ loved you, you would be grateful”

    I am sad that I no longer expect there is an answer and I no longer expect anything more tomorrow. It just is what it is.

  24. After reading this and other recent posts (especially the one about the Church failing sexless marriages), here’s my little thought. After years in a sexless marriage, I would say that I am not losing faith in God. Rather, I am losing faith in the Church. If people in the Church (from St. Augustine down to those pushing some of the philosophies of the purity culture) can preach wrong about sex in marriage and misinterpret scripture and so on, what else can they be wrong on? I find that I am more discerning and more careful about accepting what anyone says about anything.

    In many ways, it feels similar to the shift in belief I felt back in that college class on evolution that forced me to face my young-earth creationist background head on, and I came out the other side much more old-earth creationist with a hefty dose of “Genesis may not be the literal process by which the world and the universe were created.”

    In some ways, I am not sure this is a bad thing. Something Bobthemusicguy said in a comment on the other post reflected and prompted my comment here. I wonder if there is real value — something that God wants us to do more of — in claiming the right and responsibility to discern for ourselves rather than relying on pastors, priests, teachers, authors, bloggers, etc. to spoon feed us. When some big name in Christendom speaks, I can take what is spoken/written and filter it through my own understandings and my own reading of scripture and see if I think it makes sense. There is a risk of me getting stuff wrong, and I hope that God is part of this process somehow to help me not get too much of it wrong.

    Anyway, I thought it might be an interesting thought to add to this post.

    1. It’s an interesting paradox we have that Church can be so difficult, but it can also be so wonderful. And you really can’t get around the Bible stressing again and again how much God expects us to live in community with other believers. The Church itself is even called the Body of Christ. But yeah, it’s a mess sometimes, and in this particular area we’ve sadly gotten too much wrong.

      We do need to be realistic about what Church is and isn’t. And it isn’t the place for all the answers…God is. Which is why we’re also instructed to discern for ourselves (see verses on discernment here). Definitely an interesting thought, MrShorty.

      1. Paradox is an interesting, and, IMO, appropriate choice of word here. (Though I do recall someone commenting somewhere that he/she often found God in these paradoxes or something like that).
        While it is not directly related to your blog’s theme, the element that your comment has had me contemplating all week is this paradox — God wants expects to live in community with other believers, but it is so difficult to come to a unity of faith on many things. This paradox has been rattling around in my head as I see us “celebrating” the 500th anniversary (this week) of that great rift in Christendom that is the Protestant Reformation. Certainly this isn’t the only division within the body of Christ (If I am allowed to include Catholics within the body of Christ here — I occasionally hear of some Protestants that do not like to include Catholics within the body of Christ, as well as some Catholics who don’t want Protestants to be included), but it has been interesting to reflect on how important it seems to be to God that we find some way to be apart of a Christian community in spite of those divisions — in spite of the brokenness and “fallenness” of the church.

  25. As an earlier poster commented, it’s not what I want to hear, but I can’t disagree. Tonight is the 16th anniversary of my marriage and most of our marriage has been sexless. I hoped for intimacy tonight, but it appears it was never a thought. I couldn’t bare to initiate yet again only to be refused. Not only because of this pain, but I have found myself living out of defeat more than I care to admit. Giving up is so very attractive. I wish clinging to God was much more so. I’m so exhausted from dealing with the pain.

  26. I wouldn’t say I lost faith in God, but I often felt angry that he would put me in such a marriage. However, in my circumstance I can’t help but feel like it’s my own fault. Prior to marriage I was sexually active with a girl in high school, and then when I dated my wife we had pre-marital sex as well. I started alarm started using porn from age 12. So, when I look at my situation I often think “what did you expect would happen?” Regardless o my marriage, God expects me to remain faithful to him and to her, and that’s just the way it is.

    1. I think your anger is okay. Go read the Psalms. It’s walking away that’s not okay. Again, read the Psalms.

      But I will say this: I don’t think God’s punishing you in any way for your past choices. If you have confessed and repented, it’s done. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

      For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
      is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
      He has removed our sins as far from us
      as the east is from the west.
      The Lord is like a father to his children,
      tender and compassionate to those who fear him
      ” (Psalm 103:11-13).

      It’s just that life still has trouble, because we live in a broken world. I do agree that God expect us to continue to be faithful and pursue good, but even if your past has consequences, God still wants you to have the sexual intimacy He designed for marriage. The question, then, is how to get there.

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  29. First of all, I totally agree with the observation that churches are failing spouses in sexless marriages. Refusing sex to your spouse is SIN. This should not be tolerated, and the church should be clear on this.

    Secondly, next to all the other practical advice others have given; this is real suffering. In case of suffering, please try to keep doing good, and FULLY trust in the Lord to give you peace in your soul.

    1 Pet 2:20b-23
    But if you *suffer* for doing good and you *endure* it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an *example*, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he *entrusted himself to him who judges justly*.

    God is able to change people, but in the end, he will also judge unrepentant sinners.

  30. I’ve been in a sexless marriage for most of our 37 years, plus 3 dating. Yes, it sucks. It’s not right. As a man, I could do it twice a day, forever. Even more so in my teens. My wife’s reproductive organs were shot the moment we were dating, but I was not skilled enough to see that. We have a wonderful son, who is our joy, he’s 31 now. We three are devout Seventh – Day Adventist christians, Dear Jesus gets all the credit. My wife prayed “Hannah’s Prayer”, and that’s how she got pregnant with him. After our son was born, sex with my wife was bad. Faked orgasms she told me just to make me feel good. Tried talking to her, found out boys took advantage of her in her teen years. Now the thought of a penis is disgusting to her. Sex is fully over now. Will never be able to “Go in unto her”, forever. Burned GOD’S Power promises into my mind like Philippians 4:19, Isaiah 41 :10, Lamentations 3 : 31 – 33, Jerimiah 29 : 11 -13…. And a host of other scriptures like 1 Thessalonians 4 : 16 – 18 which describes Christ’s second coming. These help me keep holding onto Dear Jesus and our Dear Heavenly Father. However, I’m not perfect. Far from it. My libido is too high. Have to relieve myself once or twice each day with porn and masturbation. It’s unfortunate to be sure. Wrong too. But cannot divorce my wife as I have no retirement, job, and cannot get another one. My son and my wife bring in the money now, and it has been a humbling experience. With no sex from my wife, it’s a lonely, empty feeling that will never go away. If you are experiencing this, just hold on tight to Dear Jesus, who has all power in heaven and earth. He will see us through this mess. Because I have such a deep love for Dear Jesus, and hourly prayer, has been how I keep going. It’s very rough. He said so in John 16 : 33, about having “tribulation”. I wish I could have sex with my wife. But it will NEVER happen ever again. I am grateful for 1 John 2 : 1 where if we sin, we have our wonderful Advocate, Dear Jesus. Hold on to your faith in Dear Jesus, folks. He will get us through this mess. May Dear Jesus bless you all until His literal, visible and audible Second Coming, with ALL His mighty angels, to take us home to heaven with Him, is my prayer.

    1. My heart breaks for you. But I would encourage you to break away from the porn. It’s making things worse — fueling a selfish greed for sex, disrespecting your wife (which likely confirms her fears about men and sex), mistreats the people in porn, and dishonors God’s design for your sexuality.

      If you have not sought outside counsel from a pastor or Christian counselor, I would do so immediately. There may yet be hope of intimacy with your wife, but you have to take steps in the right direction. Saying a prayer for you.

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  32. Greetings; Excellent post. My wife and I were in a sexless marriage for 7 years. Resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness were the causes. Met with my Pastor (no, we weren’t attending church together), and he said “Go out on a day, and then go home and have sex.” We did, and it was good. But the resentment and unforgiveness were still there. Talk to your spouse. Put down all pride, or it won’t end well….

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