After writing what turned out to be a controversial post on faith and sexless marriage, I spent a lot of this weekend thinking about my next Q&A post, which I would like to be about practical steps you can take to address a sexless marriage.
In preparation, I Googled that subject and found various posts on the matter of sexual refusal as a sin (which yes, I believe it is). Many of them were posts written by fellow marriage bloggers I’d already read, but there were some additions.
Here’s what stopped me short, though: In pages and pages of my search, I found almost no posts or articles written by pastors or biblical scholars on sexual refusal in marriage.
How is that possible – I thought – when I know that it’s an ongoing issue for too many in the Church?
Most of the posts I did find suggested the prescription of addressing your spouse’s sinfulness according to Matthew 18:15-17. The steps as described are:
- Speak directly to the person who has sinned against you (your spouse)
- If they won’t listen, take one or two others along as witnesses (being careful whom you choose)
- If they still won’t listen, bring the matter to the attention of the church (not really the whole, but church leaders)
- If they still refuse to listen, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (remembering that Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors as outsiders but not enemies)
And I agree with all of that. It’s in the Bible! Spoken by Jesus! How could I not?
But here’s where the prescription, sadly, seems to break down in real life: How do I tell those in you in sexless marriages to go to your church for help with this issue, when I know full well that many of you will find precious little support there?
I’ve had spouses write and tell me that the Christian counselor they went to see brushed off the total lack of sex in their marriage, choosing instead to concentrate solely on communication issues or even saying that sex wasn’t that big a deal. I’ve had spouses tell me that they’ve begged their minister to preach or teach about sex in marriage, including the need to address sexual refusal, and they get waved off. I’ve had spouses tell me that they’ve approached church leaders and explained the heartache they’ve experience in their marriage, only to be told to suck it up, pray harder, and love their spouse more.
Poet Robert Frost famously said, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” And that is how I feel about the Church. My community of believers has been an anchor for me in many of life’s storms, and they feel like family in so many ways. I love the Body of Christ.
But I also get frustrated with our shortcomings, especially in the arena of sex in marriage.I get frustrated with our shortcomings, especially in the arena of sex in marriage. Click To Tweet
These sad, true stories above have been told to me both through my ministry here and personally. Moreover, my Google search on the subject demonstrates how silent the Church as a whole is on this topic. So where are the ministers and church leaders willing to speak boldly for the sake of all kinds of intimacy in marriage, including the physical intimacy God clearly wants spouses to have?
I know they’re out there. But their numbers aren’t large enough yet. We still have work to do in the Church.
Look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Jesus’ prescription for dealing with sin. Our Lord knows what He’s talking about! It’s a beautiful process done well and has turned back many hearts to God.
And if your spouse’s sin was adultery, I suspect the vast majority of you would receive compassion and support from those in your local church. But what if your spouse’s sin is the unfaithfulness of refusing you for years and years? What if they have cut off the physical intimacy entirely in your marriage and won’t even talk about it? What if your heart is a gaping wound in your chest that just happens to involve your private parts as well? Will you get the support you should get?
I want to say yes. I soooo want to say yes.
Because I love the Body of Christ.
Yet I’m a realist, and I know that too many churches, too many Christians, have failed in this area. We have left a large segment of emotionally pained spouses with nowhere to go.
We can’t accept that status quo. Something has to change.
So today, I’m just throwing this out there and asking my readers to answer any of the following:
- Have you personally experienced a church leader or counselor brushing off your concerns about a sexless marriage? If so, would you calmly share what happened? (Note: I don’t think berating individuals will help and just adds our own sin to the mix.)
- Has your church taught or preached on sex in marriage? If so, was sexual refusal included in the message?
- Have you helped someone in your church address a sexless marriage? What did you do, and was it (in any way) successful?
- If you’re a pastor or church leader, why has it been difficult for you or others to address the issue of sex in marriage head-on?
- What do you think needs to happen to make the Church more willing, competent, and compassionate in dealing with sex in marriage?
Where this goes, I don’t know. But it’s past time we talked more positively about healthy and holy sex in marriage and more honestly about all the sexual sins that can entrap us and damage the intimacy of our marriages.
And I want to be a part of the conversation that changes our churches for the better.