So no one actually asked that question exactly as the title communicates. But it’s been asked of me, and several marriage bloggers I know, quite a few times. Too. Many. Times.
You might be wondering how prevalent sexless marriages are. Someone asked this question in the comment thread of my last post (Is the Church Failing Sexless Marriages?). Here’s my answer:
It’s really hard to get great statistics with sex. For obvious reasons, it’s all self-report, and people don’t always report accurately. Maybe someday, some tech guru will devise a study where you wear an innocuous gadget that will note when you have sex and then report that. (Although, even then wouldn’t people try to game the system like they do with FitBits?) But the primary estimate I’ve seen is 15% of marriages being sexless, meaning fewer than 10 encounters per year.
As for actual data, here are two snippets:
“Searches for ‘sexless marriage’ are three and a half times more common than ‘unhappy marriage’ and eight times more common than ‘loveless marriage.’ There are 16 times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk.” – Searching for Sex, New York Times
In a survey of nearly 16,000 Americans between age 18 and 60, by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, 12% reported not having sex in the prior year. How common are sexually “inactive” marriages?, Relationships in America
So yeah, it’s a common issue which needs to be addressed.
And as much as I’d love that title above to say, “5 Foolproof Ways to Bring Your Sexless Marriage to Sizzling!” that’s more cow pattie than I’m willing to step in. Even in my tallest boots.
Thus, I’m going to take some time with this topic, probably a series of three posts about marriages that are sexless or experience highly mismatched drives. If you’re in a drought, you’ll likely want to stay tuned.
But if you’re not in a sexless marriage, you may be tempted to skip the next few Q&A posts. I urge you to keep reading, however. Because you know someone in a sexless marriage. It could be a neighbor, a co-worker, a close friend, a family member, the woman who sits next to you in the pew at church, or the preacher standing at the front. How can our churches minister to them if we as individual Christians don’t understand the problem, show compassion and support, and help them address their struggle?
So let’s begin…
In everything I write, I want to be both biblical and helpful.
When I turn to Scripture, there is a specific answer for confronting someone who sins against you, in Matthew 18:15-17. But is it wise to follow that prescription to the exclusion of others on the topic of marriage? Shouldn’t we have a broader understanding of what God thinks about marriage and problems therein? After all, just one chapter later, Jesus says this:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
So what should you do? Should you start with confronting sin, as persistent, unyielding sexual refusal is? Should you focus on praying for your spouse? Should you just suck it up and “love your spouse more,” as is often suggested?
After thinking about this long and hard (and with a thanks to this comment from E), I believe the starting point must be this: TRUST.
Most spouses do not one day decide to turn into Maleficent or Darth Vader and become your worst enemy, at least in the realm of sexual intimacy. They don’t think to themselves, I don’t care how much it hurts him/her.
Instead, what I’ve most often heard from formerly refusing spouses who turned things around is they were protecting themselves from something that felt worse to them than denying their spouse sex. Meaning their refusal came from a place of fear.
That fear could take all kinds of forms:
- Fear of not being good enough
- Fear of awkwardness
- Fear of being in pain or discomfort
- Fear that their spouse’s love is only about the physical
- Fear of being taken advantaged of
- Fear of being made to do something they don’t like
- Fear of being compared to previous lovers
- Fear of being compared to porn
I’m not saying every single instance of sexual refusal is about fear, but I’d venture to say it’s a very high majority. For some reason, the refusing spouse feels unsafe in the marriage bed.For some reason, the refusing spouse feels unsafe in the marriage bed. Click To Tweet
So is it any surprise that when you bring up the topic of sex, they become defensive right away?
But what if you’re confronted by someone you trust entirely? When you are 100% sure that the person has your interests foremost in your mind, that they genuinely want the best for you, that they are a friend who loves at all times? What if you feel entirely safe with someone?
That’s what Dr. Gary Smalley in his book, The DNA of Relationships, identified as a core principle of a healthy marriage — a safe environment. Too often, we are caught up in a “Fear Dance,” in which we protect ourselves by building a wall or even a battering ram against others.
Truth is, you have your own fears too. I get it. But if you want to make progress in a sexless marriage, you should make every effort to create a safe environment in which your refusing spouse can share and feel validated, loved, and supported.
I’m not saying you support the sin — of course not! But you show understanding and sympathy for the fear underlying their refusal.
(By the way, yes, I also believe you should feel validated, loved, and supported in your marriage. But your spouse isn’t reading this post, so let’s start the change with you.)
Consider that church discipline passage mentioned above, Matthew 18:15-17. Immediately before that section, Jesus tells the Parable of the Lost Sheep, in which the loving shepherd seeks tirelessly for the one lost sheep and rejoices when he finds it. Jesus starts by valuing others and showing that He can be trusted. Likewise, it’s our compassion and trustworthiness that allows us to confront a fellow believer and have a chance of breaking through to reconciliation.
Look at these verses as well:
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Whatever you do next, the foundation must be trust. Isn’t trust something you had when you married each other? Didn’t you believe that this person loved you and thus wanted good things for you? Didn’t your spouse believe that about you?
But it’s easy to lose trust over time. Or for the falling-in-love feelings to fade and fear in your present or from your past to come creeping back in. And we often don’t even realize what happened. We just feel like we have to fend for ourselves, because no one else is going to do it. Or at least not as well as we can.
Our barriers are intended to preserve our soft places, to cover our crevices of fear.
What I’m asking is easy to understand, but extremely hard to do: Let go of your own fear, your own barriers, and open yourself up to your spouse’s fear. It’s what needs to happen to create or rebuild trust.
For you to make any headway with “I want more sex,” your spouse has to believe that you want more sex not just for you, but for them. They have to see you as a safe person with whom they can share themselves fully, and still be accepted and loved. They have to trust that your perfect love can drive out their fear.Your spouse has to believe that you want more sex not just for you, but for them. Click To Tweet
Which, no, won’t be perfect, but buoyed by the Holy Spirit, it will be enough.
Next week, I want to talk specifically about how to build that trust — that is, actual steps to demonstrate your trustworthiness and begin to break down the barriers that divide you. Then we’ll get to some specifics on addressing the issue of sexlessness in your marriage.
In the meantime, I want to hear from those of you who went from a sexless or sexually unsatisfying marriage to healthy and holy sexual intimacy. Please send me an email and tell me your story, particularly what actually began the turnaround. Thanks!
93 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “What Can I Do About My Sexless Marriage?” Part 1”
Thanks for sharing a faint hope for a sexless marriage, tired and discouraged so will stay tuned
There is hope. I truly believe there is. Blessings!
J, thank you for tackling this topic head on. One aspect of the trust issue affects the ability to get help. You may be addressing this in a future post, so I hope I’m not jumping the gun.
Since your last post about the church failing sexless marriages, one theme has come up again and again in the comments. People in this situation don’t trust the church. Either they don’t trust fellow believers to take them seriously, or maybe they don’t trust them to actually address the problem. And there is trust plain and simple. Can I trust the church when many Christians are perpetual sources of gossip and condemnation? I have enough of a problem without adding that to the mix.
Finally , do I trust God? Something that has been coming to me repeatedly in the past year and a half (since our sexless marriage was turned around by God), is that my trust of God, or my wife, or any other Christian, is based on the strength of the relationship. And my first responsibility, before I tackle any problem, is to make myself right with God relationally. Not that I have to be perfect, or even can be perfect, but that like David, I’ll be a man after God’s own heart. Then God can deal with other things.
Thanks. And I also thought a lot about the issue of trusting God. Of course, most appearances of the word “trust” in the Bible refer to our need to trust our Lord and Savior. That doesn’t mean we don’t take action, but it means we trust His plan and make sure to follow that plan in the choices we make and the renewal of our relationships.
I completely understand your reason for posting this, and I agree that many refusing spouses are refusing out of fear. And those spouses should be approached with gentleness and understanding.
However, there are others who are completely aware of the harm they are inflicting upon their spouses and do not care. I hope that my W is an anomaly, but she was very cruel and abusive in her refusals. If I told her I was unhappy with the years of celibacy, she would say the following phrase, “It doesn’t matter because penis doesn’t even work anymore anyway.” I found this very insulting and I would not suggest that anyone talk to a spouse this way.
That is a terrible way to respond indeed! But sometimes even the cruel statements come from a place of fear. Honestly, I think back to when my marriage was so troubled years ago, and I’m ashamed of how I lashed out at my husband. If someone played back a recording of some of the insults I threw at him, I would cringe. But I also know that I was in such emotional pain then, and my vitriol came from wanting to protect myself from the hurt I felt. I’m not at all excusing it! (And abuse is never warranted and should not be tolerated.) But I think even some of those moments can come from fear.
You could be right. But I could not tolerate her constant verbal abuse any more. She would not stop, and she never showed a bit of remorse, repentance, or regret. She honestly thought that she had every right to treat me that way.
I get what you are saying here, and its true, but there is another aspect of the sexless marriage.
Sometimes, they just don’t care. They. Just. Don’t. Care. Its not important to them. There’s not fears involved, no issues, no abuse, no nothing. They have absolutely no interest. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. And don’t care about having interest.
Its like someone caring whether they watch star wars or star trek. They have absolutely no interest in either, it doesn’t matter if either or neither are on. And they don’t care to find out the who what where why or how either.
Its complete and utter apathy, lack of interest, etc. And any attempt to get them to see it -Big *shrug*.
It just simply doesn’t matter to them. The fact that its a interest of yours is irrelevant. I think this kind of issue is the hardest to overcome. There’s nothing to fight, diagnose or argue against. Its very discouraging.
Yes, there are some for whom apathy is the driving force. But I wonder if it’s fewer than we think. That is why are they so apathetic? What has made them believe that sex is so whatever that they’re willing to disrupt their marriage to dig their heels in. For some of those who appear apathetic (I admit I don’t know how many), I wonder if their apathy is born out of feelings that sex isn’t important because of fears they have about sex itself.
That said, I will address steps you can take in a later post and keep in mind those for whom apathy is the real issue. And those spouses also need an environment of trust.
Francis Schaeffer wrote about how he approached people who came to his L’Abri center in Switzerland. He would get to know them and probe to find the chink in their armor, their point of vulnerability. Everyone has one. But where it is, and how to begin to pry it open, often takes a skilled counselor. You’re correct about the “why” of apathy. Everything we do has underlying motives. Sometimes they’re buried so deep that it’s almost impossible to strip away the layers of excuses and denials that we put up to strengthen our armor.
My heart goes out to John. The pain of knowing your spouse doesn’t care is worse than the sexual refusal itself. I hope he is able, through counseling or even through God directly opening his eyes to the underlying problem, to break through this wall of apathy his wife has constructed.
Thanks, Bob. (And I love Francis Schaeffer, whose words helped me a lot when I was struggling with faith in my early 20s.)
It really doesn’t matter why. The rejection, the pain, the horrible feeling of loss is the same. That is the problem with refusers. They only care about what is happening with them, and the fact that they are causing pain is a matter of indifference to them.
Then the issue becomes how to get them to care. Even so, I hope that I can provide some tips in this series to help those in such difficult circumstances.
I really hope you can. Unfortunately, there are some people who just won’t care. I hope they are the minority, but my STBXW was one. In one of our last conversations, she referred to me by a very belittling name. When I asked her to please not call me that, she told me that she had the right to call me whatever she wanted. I really don’t see how there is any way to fix a marriage when one of the parties has that attitude.
Thanks for your very gracious reply, Sean. I am praying for healing in your life. I hope and pray that you find comfort in Jesus while you are processing this major life change. I pray that you will be able to look at the world with joy rather than bitterness. You have been through a lot.
Perhaps Pauls words in Philippians 3:12-14 will be useful to you:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.…
I really do appreciate you referring me to a scripture to try to encourage me. I know you have nothing but the best intentions. I have been reading the Bible on a regular basis since I was 6 years old. I also prayed for God to do whatever it took to improve my marriage, including changing me or taking away my sex drive.
I apologize for sounding negative, but my best sexual years were wasted with a woman who did not love me, and abused me for almost 30 years. In all that time, I begged and pleaded for God to help me, but he totally ignored me. I am doing my best to keep faith, but it is extremely difficult. After abusing and neglecting me for all those years, she is still going to get half of my retirement that I worked so hard for, while she was berating me for not making enough money.
It is a bit hard to take at times.
Just a heartbreaking story, Sean. I want to give you answers somehow, but I think perhaps my best offering at this moment is simply to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
Thanks J. I deal with it well most of the time, but sometimes it gets me that my STBXW stole the best years of my life, and she is going to get away with it with no consequences. I have to endure the judgment of people who don’t know the particulars of the situation, while she gets all kinds of sympathy and support. I am doing my best to take the high road and not criticize her, but it is really hard.
Luckily, my daughters are starting to see through her lies. They are also seeing that I am the one who they can always depend on to love and support them.
Sometimes, I just wish she could experience just a bit of consequences for her behavior. I am not going to retaliate, but it really would be nice to see her reap what she has sown. She told me for years that I was a horrible husband, all of her friends had better husbands, and she could easily find a better one. Now she has the chance to do just that.
I don’t think she’s getting away with it. I know it’s hard to see what consequences she faces, but I do believe they are there. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
Sean, I can see that you are hurting very badly, and I also know that sometimes people don’t want to be helped (talking about your STBX here, not you!), but I believe that God is the Great Redeemer, and that all things are possible for Him. No one is too far gone for His love to reach.
I want to share my testimony. I am, and my marriage is, still a work in progress. We still have a lot of hurting in our relationship, but we also have a LOT of love. I would never have believed it possible a couple of years ago.
A few years ago I had my first affair. At the time, I really wasn’t thinking about how much it could hurt my husband, because I was feeling a world of hurt myself, and the affair felt like a balm on my battered soul. I had not been walking with Christ before the affair, and obviously wasn’t during it. When my husband found out, he was understandably hurt. Massively so. In my ignorance, I couldn’t believe how much it hurt him, because our relationship was hurting me so much, I couldn’t understand how he thought is was ‘good’. Needless to say, I was very bad at communicating my feelings (without putting any blame on my husband, what J has said about being a safe place to talk and share truth is really really important!). When my affair came to light, I decided to stay married, and by Gods grace, my husband still wanted to be married to me. I know how undeserving of that I am. But, we still hadn’t fixed any of the underlying issues, and we were still very bad at communicating. I hadn’t had a heart change, and about a year later, I had another affair. This one I kept completely secret, and after some time, it petered out. A while after that I made the decision to fully commit to making my marriage work, and making it a priority. I started reading marriage blogs, and from there I gave my heart to the Lord. It still took me about a year after that to confess my second affair to my husband. Once again, it devastated him, but this time, I had already been ‘all in’ in the marriage for over a year, and I really, truly cared for him. That made a huge difference, as while he has been grieving this time around, I have been supportive rather than dismissive. We are still a long way from healed, and there will always be the scars of the affairs, but we are now both fully committed to each other, we serve each other daily, and have worked out that love is action, not feeling, so even on the hard days, we love one another. We comfort each other, which is HUGE.
Part of my story is that I now have the Lord for comfort, so I don’t seek it out from other men. Part of it is that we are both now fully committed to putting each others needs first (although, being human,we do this imperfectly). And I (being the book nerd) am reading marriage book after marriage book (yours is next, J! ?) to help us continue to grow our marriage. We have been married about 12 years, and although I am sure it would have been better if I had never had the affairs, I kind of think
… That our marriage is a stronger one because of the hardship we have made it through! We certainly don’t take each other for granted these days!
But, all that to say that I hope that my story can give someone out there some hope that their marriage can be redeemed and resurrected, no matter how many pieces it is currently in. Whether blown to smithereens by the revelation on an affair, or chipped away at by years of sexual refusal; or any of the other million and one ways we can cause damage to our relationships – there is always hope. I am praying for all the broken and hurting marriages out there, and I am praying for strength for spouses who are feeling the pain and conviction for spouses who are inflicting pain, and that all of us will feel the conviction to love each other the way Jesus loves us.
God bless y’all
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m sure it’s hard to bring it back up again, but I’m so moved by what you have done for your marriage and how God has worked in your lives. It will help someone else to hear it. Blessings!
E, thank you for your kind comments. I honestly have a great amount of admiration for you in being able to acknowledge your faults and take steps to resolve the issues in your marriage.
I do want to point out a major difference in our situations. It is extremely obvious that you feel a huge amount of remorse for your actions. However, my STBXW has absolutely no remorse at all for her actions. She blames me for every single problem we encountered in 28 years of being together. When I asked about the sexual rejection, she would insult me in the most personal way possible.
I do want to respond to this statement…
“Whether blown to smithereens by the revelation on an affair, or chipped away at by years of sexual refusal”
My situation was much worse than merely “chipping away.” I assure you, after dating someone without sex for 2.5 years, then being told on a honeymoon that it would be sexless, it was an explosion as well.
I want you to understand that not only your husband found you sexually attractive, but two other men did as well. That is a sharp contrast of knowing that the one person with whom you can be sexual finds you sexually repugnant. You will never know the pain of that feeling and I hope you never will.
It does sound to me like this marriage is over. But I pray you can find hope and healing in your life.
Argh! I replied on the wrong comment! Please see above comment as for some reason I can’t copy and paste on this device!
I couldn’t figure out how to move it either! I tried.
Thank you for this. I hurt my wife with my sin of porn. Reading this I understand her fear is the fear of not being better than porn. When she told me this when i confessed it crushed my heart that I had hurt her so much and that I had made her question he beauty and her ability in the bed. Nothing I can say can heal this. I tried to explain to her that my porn use was based on all the hurt that I felt and the burnout I was going through but realized that it doesn’t change anything. I chose it before her. When I confessed I told her that I wouldn’t mention sex until she did. We have had sex once since then , she is pregnant now so we won’t have sex in a long time. I won’t mention sex until she feels ready not only from the pregnancy but from the hurt but I want to lurn how to build up that trust again even if it will take years. I want to make her enjoy sex again for her even if it would mean she has to leave me to experience it with someone else. Looking forward to the coming posts.
This makes my heart ache. But there is a way to rebuild trust. I hope I can provide you real hope in the next couple of posts.
My husband and I have been through that same trial. When I was pregnant with our first, I couldn’t handle any touch except back scratches (hugging made me feel nauseated)… So intimacy was pretty much gone. Our child was born, and then I struggled with sharing myself with my husband and our child (breastfeeding and the like). Hubby succumbed to a past temptation of his of porn. I found out months into our child’s life. It utterly crushed me. It crushed him. But I tried to understand what had “driven” him that direction… We picked up the intimacy frequency, but had barriers in place (wearing shirts). It was rough until my second pregnancy was close to an end. It was also when our first weaned. I had to take a huge leap of my own to decide to remove my barriers (physical and emotional) for our relationship to finally strengthen and heal that final bit. That was about a year after his confession. I have worked to keep communication up and open… As much as I hate to hear of struggling moments with him, I’d rather hear about them so I know how he’s doing and how I can try to help him. When it can’t be hidden (open communication and trust on his part), it isn’t likely to be as big of a problem (i.e. succumbing again). I struggled with periods of refusal giving… I didn’t fully realize how much it felt like a punishment to him. I read an amazing book early last year that really opened my eyes and heart to my own trouble-making in our relationship. Things since then have only continued to improve exponentially. We now have 3 kiddos and another on the way (we experienced 3 miscarriages last year… But honestly had no issues with intimacy through that pain bc of how we’ve grown together). Be encouraged… Be patient… Be openly loving. There is hope.
Thank you so much!
You don’t know how much this means to me. I have been feeling so bad these last days. It’s been 30 days without porn and I can tell you that I haven’t been happier in years. When I confessed to my wife I didn’t only confess my sin but also everything else. All that was bottled up in my heart. The emotional burnout that I had been going though that she had seen but didn’t know how to help so she didn’t say anything, my frustration over our sex life, the lack of intimacy that I wasn’t worthy of but still wanted so much and etc. That healed something in me. I can’t explain it but I think it healed me and when she opened up her heart and told me how she felt it crushed my heart because what I had gone through was nothing compared what she had gone through. I think those talks healed a lot in both of our hearts. I actually don’t miss porn at all. Many say that the temptation comes after awhile but I can honestly say that even if images come up I don’t feel that drawn to it. For me porn was like poisonous medication for my wounded heart. when I finally spoke about all of this I got healed. I Still have to guard my heart so I can’t let my guard down but I am happy to say that I am walking in freedome but still sex is an issue.
It’s so hard at times because I know I don’t deserve sex but I can’t live without it. We have had sex once since everything happened. Again I know I don’t deserve sex and now that she is pregnant it’s even harder but some days I feel so frustrated. Two days ago I had an anxiety attack with pain in my chest so I had to go to the doctor. I am very stressed right now and one thing that is really affecting me is that I can’t have sex or any sexual release. I haven’t talked to my wife about it but I have decided to mention to her how I feel of course not in a accusing way. Again I know I don’t deserve sex but I feel that if I don’t tell her I may fall back to where i wasbefore. Yesterday the stress was worse and I started to cry because of my lack of sex. I can say that I wasn’t tempted as before to look at porn but the idea came up and the idea of masturbating but thankfully I just brushed it off but I feel that I need to at least tell my wife. Even if she doesn’t want to do anything I have at least voiced how I feel. Your comment really made me see that. I need to communicate openly with her. Thank you! And btw you seem to be an awesome wife who has decided not to give up. Your husband messed up but you wanted to restore your marriage and did the changes that you could. Not many would. That’s awesome! God bless you!
Yes, I think you should communicate that to your wife. One suggestion: Don’t phrase it in terms of needing sex or a release, but rather tell her how much you long to be intimate with her again. That’s really what it is, and that speaks much better to most wives.
Thank you so much J. It’s easy to phrase things in a way that for me as a man means that I long for intimacy but that she would probably would interpret in another way. I will choose my words wisely. Thank you!
FreeinChrist, I’d like to address the idea you keep bringing up, about not deserving sex. I understand what you’re trying to say, I think. You seem to think that because of your sin of porn use, you hurt your wife badly and don’t deserve to be sexually intimate with her because of that betrayal. I hope I’m understanding you correctly.
The idea of what we do and don’t deserve needs to be put into a larger perspective. As sinners, we don’t deserve anything but punishment (death) for our sins. “The wages of sin is death . . .” But the whole point of Christianity is that God laid our punishment on Jesus and gave us His righteousness freely. “But the gift of God is eternal life.” It’s all gift, and because I have been redeemed, I’m being conformed to His image. Therefore, I am to give myself freely to others, as well.
Putting this in the context of marriage, I DON’T deserve sex with my wife. And she DOESN’T deserve the intimacy she wants through conversation and time, sharing minds and hearts with each other. But we offer that to each other as a gift. The union she wants of our minds and hearts, the union I want of our bodies, all these are ways of giving ourselves to each other. And we are blessed by this. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The apostle Paul tells us to owe no one anything, except “the debt of love.” You obviously understand the greatness of God’s gift to you of eternal life in Christ. And He has given you the Holy Spirit, to indwell you, teach and guide you, empower you, form Christ in you, and yield in you the fruits of the Spirit. The growing evidence of your yielding to the Holy Spirit, will go a long way toward healing your marriage.
If you don’t already, follow Paul Byerly’s blog, The Generous Husband. He often admonishes us men to give ourselves to our wives generously. Not in order to get her to have more sex, and any sex at all. Rather, it’s because our role model gave Himself totally to us, our of His great love, even for us sinners.
I’ve become convinced that marriage is a representation, on a very profound and mysterious level, of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. That includes sex. Think of this. In order to have sex with her husband, a wife has to trust her husband enough to actually let him put part of his body into her body. There is a surrender of herself. We men have a hard time understanding how to be Christ’s bride. Look to our wives. Jesus is a gentle lover who patiently woos us, instead of just demanding the submission He alone is worthy of. He gives Himself generously, even when we refuse to give ourselves in return. We husbands need to take our role as imitators of Christ seriously. Read Ephesians 5.
I hope I haven’t misconstrued your meaning. When sex disappeared in our marriage, I accepted it because I thought it was God’s just punishment for my many sins, sexual or otherwise. But my wife and I have learned to give ourselves to each other, heart, mind, and body.
Thank you very much Bob! It’s a really beautiful description of what marriage and sex is it’s spiritual meaning. Really touching. You have really understood the depths of the mystery that is marriage.
Sadly we aren’t there. I have a hard time even believing God loves me. Most of the time I think he barely tolerates me. So yeah I see this as a punishment. I don’t deserve sex and I have myself to blame. Yesterday I wrote her about telling my wife about how I feel not having sex for a long time. It’s been 31 days without porn and as I said yesterday I feel great. I don’t want to go back to that. The feeling of waking up without guilt and shame is priceless. But I am feeling the effects of it. We only had a good sex life the first months in our marriage. Now I really feel the effects of going without sex or sexual release for a long time and it is very hard. I know, I know I should be able to resist any temptation and I shouldn’t feel frustrated because a good Christian man shouldn’t be affected by the body’s desires but I still am. I have had a stressful time even going to the hospital and part of it was the lack of sex. So today I mustered up the courage I had and I told my wife how I felt. That I am happy to have let all the bad things but I miss her. I want to be with her. And I also told her that it is hard for me to go for so long time without sex. She looked at me like she felt pity for me, said awww then turned around and kept looking at the movie she was looking at. She didn’t mention anything or continued to talk. I felt hurt. Again I don’t have any right to anything and I know she is pregnant and things are harder but I feel like she didn’t even make an effort to understand. I sometimes feel like she doesn’t seem to care or understand that I can have sexual needs. She didn’t before either. Never asked how I feel when weeks pass by. I don’t know what to do. So it’s hard not to feel like you don’t deserve sex. I just wonder for how long I won’t deserve sex. Her reaction made me want to give up on having a sex life. Right now I want sex but I have noticed that my desire is getting lower now that I am getting older. Things like this makes it hard for me to stay hard so to speak. And I’m afraid that if I give up we won’t have a sex life anymore because she doesn’t make any effort to try to be intimate.
This is the passage that allowed me to forgive myself for my promiscuous past. Maybe it will help you as well:
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Were is past tense. That’s what I was, not who I am. In Christ, I am a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
What do I do if I struggle with sex since my husband’s affair. Shouldn’t he be the one to wait for me to feel comfortable? I struggle enjoying it. And he doesn’t want to talk about it.
Yes, to a great extent, he should. Of course, it takes you two years to feel comfortable, while he’s doing every single thing he can to re-establish trust, then that would be a problem. But I’m concerned about his unwillingness to talk about things, because that might be what would actually help you get past the struggle.
I’m going to point you to this post — Q&A with J: Can God Heal Any Marriage after Infidelity? — because even though it’s not your exact situation, that article includes links to other helpful resources that you might want to look into.
In a survey I ran through my blog, of the 400+ couples represented, almost 20% reported having sex less than once per month or not at all. It’s not scientific, of course, but it does point to the magnitude of the issue, even, and perhaps especially, in the church (my readership is probably 99% Christian).
Thanks for tackling this!
Thanks for that, Scott! It’s a helpful statistic, and also quite worrisome.
(Hey, y’all…Scott has had some amazing posts lately. Check out his blog.)
Interesting. Fear also has its effects on the male side of the equation. Fear of rejection is at the root of much male involvement with pornography. “Performance anxiety” or fear, is the leading cause of erectile disfunction in men, which could lead to a sexless marriage. My wife experienced a different problem. For many years the problem was not a sexless marriage, but a desire-less one. I suspect this would be the case for any Christian woman, who like my wife, felt it was their Christian duty to provide their husband with sex whether or not they desired him. I would say a desire-less marriage is the same as a sexless one, but felt obligation masks the problem.
How did you fix that? This is one of my greatest fears , that my wife will stop desiring me or I will stop desiring her. I mean what are you going to do then? Just accept that? I would feel so bad for her if she doesn’t desire me anymore and she is stuck with me because or else she will sin against God. I don’t want to talk against God and I understand why God hates divorce but I would be devastated. I would prefer to divorce so she could find happiness without me. I know I must obey God but it would be hard not to file for divorce so she could be happy.
I had to own her lack of desire, and recognize it as something largely out of her control. It is a divine reflex. Normally, a wife enters marriage with high desire for her husband. Based on her initial high perception of her husband’s rule, her desire for him is likewise high. As life pans out, if reality does not confirm her confidence, her desire will wane. In such case the husband must restore her confidence. He must become a competent man. It is always a work in progress.
I’m really trying to figure this one out: “Based on her initial high perception of her husband’s rule, her desire for him is likewise high.” What on earth do you mean by “husband’s rule”? Like ruling over her? Surely not.
“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
I kinda wonder where you fall on the complementarian / egalitarian continuum. I’d count myself pretty much as a moderate complementarian, according to these descriptions, but it sounds like you’re further on that side than I am. Because while I think true male leadership does appeal to women, talking about his rule over her based on the curse in Genesis 3 doesn’t really strike me as the ideal God sets for husbands in their marriages.
Thoughtful post you linked. Not sure thinking of “roles” is helpful. Smacks of individualism. I see the husband and wife as one body; husband is head. What functions do our physical heads perform? How much does the body depend on the head functioning well, and likewise the head the body? Does talk of “authority” make sense when thinking of the body?
As for the verse, it is subject to much debate. I refer to it in the sense that it links a woman’s sexual desire directly to her man’s competent leadership (head rules over the body). The context of the verse is the Lord acting as Physician, not Judge. He applies medicine in the form of various inducements. They are all designed to help sinful man. The wife-sexual desire link is a major!
It’s not enough for a man to simply love his wife any more than a football coach can love his team dearly yet still be a failure. A husband must love and lead his wife attractively and competently. No man is a natural but must learn. The Lord wisely designed a wife to provide feedback largely beyond her control.
But what does it mean to lead? I am reading the post and J write and it makes me a little worried. I don’t know what it means to lead and how women want us to lead. It sounds like you guys mean that a husband has to be some spiritual macho man but what does that mean? I have never been good at making decision. Mostly because I never believe I have good ideas and when I give an idea my wife doesn’t always listen. She often wants things her way. Am I then not leading good enough because she wants things her way? Or what is it? I have always seen leadership as serving. So I try to serve my wife as much as I can. Help out at home. Give her what she wants and needs and so on. Isn’t that leading? Or what is it and specially what do women want from it? I mean what should I lead when she gets her way anyways? Not that she has bad ideas but sometimes I don’t agree and have other plans but I want her to be happy so I let her have her way? Am I supposed to be punished with not being desired because of that? I’m sorry but I don’t understand it.
Now we’re getting into different territory from this post’s goal. But this is still a great question, FreeinChrist. I recommend reading these two recent posts from Scott Means at Heaven Made Marriage:
Husbands: Strong and Good
What Headship Is Not
He does an excellent job of showing what leadership is and isn’t.
Thanks J! You just provided me my topic for an upcoming adult Sunday school teaching assignment:
“It’s Nice Guy husbands that pose the biggest threat to biblical marriage today…” – Scott Means
I think “servant leadership” is a misleading term to use for husbands. Husbands are instructed to love their wives, not serve them. “Lover leadership” seems more accurate.
Free In Christ ask what is looks like to lead (sorry if this is still off topic, J, if you don’t think it’s appropriate and don’t allow this comment through, I understand)
You are called to love your wife like Jesus loves the church. My greatest recommendation would be to study Jesus. Get stuck into the gospels. Get an audio bible, and listen to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Over and over again. Listen to different versions. Listen to some every day (if possible). Meditate on His Word and how it can be applied to your marriage.
As a woman, I am not called to love my husband like Christ loved the church. I am, however, called to be Christ-like. Listening to the gospels has been very beneficial to me in this regard.
Saying “Study Jesus. Be more like Jesus” is never off-topic, is it? Thank you.
The circumstances are different for everyone. In my opinion, at the end of the day, it really boils down to the Biblical virtue of respect if it’s not a physical issue. In my case my wife showed no signs of this prior to marriage. She went to two family doctors as well as a Gyno who all confirmed that her body is A-ok. Yet despite this, refusal to even discuss the subject continues. To me that’s lack of respect. That’s the root of the problem.
So if my wife truly respects me she would be committed to change or at least open to my feelings. She’s not. Instead she claims up. To me that’s a relational issue, and I think a lot of refusing men and women need to question whether their refusal is about the physical or whether it’s spiritual, or if they’re trying to come up with physical solutions to a spiritual problem. Why did you marry this person? Are you mature enough for a marriage? How can you say you care about your marriage when you neglect the most intimate part? Make sense?
Someone in another post brought up an excellent point in terms of living with this that you might want to address. Several authors and a pastor told me that “Pray harder for your wife and God will reward you” for your faithfulness. But, as the person in another post asked, that seems like a stupid thing to say because How can God honor something that is *dishonorable*? It’s not Biblical. Further, after reading that, it seems to me that there is greater reward in upholding God’s standard with a frequent sex life and truly fighting for our marriage, which we are called to do. How do we mix that with living at peace with our spouse? Is it worth tension for years? Tough issue!
Larry, you’re choosing to see this as disrespect, because that’s how it legitimately feels to you. But for many wives, refusing sex isn’t about a lack of respect for their husbands; in fact, that conclusion doesn’t even make sense to them — it’s not at all how they perceive their own actions. Too often we presume motives from our spouse that don’t reflect the truth. While it’s fine to express that it feels like disrespect to you, saying that she wants to disrespect you is a leap that may or may not be accurate.
Let me give you an example, one I’ve used before because it’s simple, straightforward, and my own story: My husband has a tendency to leave shoes out all over our bedroom. It drives me nuts. Being the person who most picks up the house, for years I viewed his actions as thoughtless, disrespectful, and rude. After building up resentment about this for a while, when I finally mentioned it to him and how I felt, he pretty much looked at me like I’d grown a unicorn horn on my forehead. My personalization of his actions made zero sense to him, because he was just taking off his shoes and forgetting to put them away. And then when he wanted to wear the shoes again, it was kinda awesome that he didn’t have to walk all the way to the closet to get them. LEFT-OUT SHOES meant something completely different to each of us. Now he tries to remember to put away his shoes, but he still forgets and I just pick them up and put them away, knowing it’s nothing personal.
Of course, shoes aren’t sex. But the principle is that SEXUAL REFUSAL likely means something very different to each of you. For you, it’s deep disrespect. But for her, it might be something else entirely. And maybe that’s what you need to figure out — what it means to her — so that you can then find a way to work together on the problem.
J, good point about different understandings. I thought my wife’s sexual refusal was about not loving me, and she thought it was about focusing on more “spiritual” things. What I discovered is that my desire for sex was more about my desire for closeness with my wife, something that God wants so much the He built it into my body chemistry. What she discovered is that our sexual union is a very spiritual thing, that opening her body to me is a physical component in deepening our spiritual unity, again something God wants so much that he wired it into her body chemistry, too. Isn’t God smart, And isn’t He so good to us, to give us such wonderful gifts!
respecffully and sincerely, I believe the shoes comparison is apples and oranges. Picking up shoes is not a physical need for you. Neither, for that matter, is it a key piece to the marriage covenant.
I base my views of disrespect toward other factors which are kind of part of the story. For example she just left with a male co-worker on an out of country work trip this morning and seems very excited about it. For our anniversary I took her up to a bed and breakfast this year: she hated it and barely talked. She criticizes me anytime I spend more than two dollars on myself, even if it’s a cup of coffee. I also think he is obviously hitting on her, as they both have gone out for lunch despite my prohibiting It and has even given her a ride. She has also bought him treats and coffee. She says it’s nothing, but for our anniversary – with her husband – she got me nothing.
Your emotional pain shows through in your comment here. You really do need to address these issues, telling your wife how much she means to you and then figuring out where to go from here. I wonder if she would be open to counseling. Saying a prayer for you.
I’m fearful that Larry;’s wife is seriously deceived. You rightly point him to the urgent matters that require attention asap. Confrontation is never comfortable; however, marriage is that important. Time for both parties to honor Christ enough to be honest.
I don’t believe a sexless marriage can ever be resolved without knowing the “why”.
There are probably as many “why’s” for not wanting sex as there are people.
I never see these people talk about why they don’t want sex.
My guess is because they are not allowed to express their “truth” without judgement.
People who aren’t interested in sex (for what ever reason) are pre-judged, so it may be very difficult to find the true reason for their disinterest.
Uninterested spouses are considered selfish, scared, sinful, and mean before they even open their mouths. If they are not allowed to express their truth without judgement, there will never be a solution to their disinterest in sex.
I think your last paragraph holds an important truth for many. You state it very well. And it’s why creating that safe, trusting environment is so important.
The wives I know who turned things around had reasons that made sense to them for refusing, but they felt like every conversation about sex was riddled with tension and judgment. Yes, they eventually broke through, but it was a struggle. (And yeah, men refuse too, but I just haven’t heard as many personal stories from them, so I chose to speak about the wives this time.)
I have entertained thoughts about refusing my wife i just will never get the oppurtunity.
That’s vague. Why would you refuse?
I feel right now that i dont get any say in the situation. If i refuse, i have a voice.
Ouch. I hear ya. But is that cutting off your nose to spite your face, as they say? I do really feel for you. That’s obviously not how sexual intimacy in marriage should be.
One detail regarding shoes – yes, your husband initially thought ill of your motives, but the key thing is that he eventually LISTENED, took your concerns to heart and is TRYING to improve. Thays the difference, at least with my wife. She’s not open to any example. She’s not willing to talk. She’s not willing to try.
Actually, I thought ill of his motives, and I started picking up his shoes on my own long before I finally told him how I really felt — that I’d taken it personally. I took the first step so that when I did talk to him about my underlying feelings, it was from a place of calm. Just wanted to clarify.
For me, the hardest part of my sexless marriage was the knowledge that my ex-wife was freely sexual with others, and with me, prior to our marriage. I think that is true with many women and I believe it is related to the high hormones in the first year of a relationship that make it easy to be “turned on” sexually, where as later it is more about mentally being prepared (per Shelia). I think for men it is almost always a visual issue and not as much as about the brain. (all generalizations). Therefore, I don’t buy the “insecurity” or “trust” issue as why can you have sexual relationship freely with others, but not your committed husband. I think it is about making sex a prioriy.
I listened to a podcast recently and I think it was so insightful as the sex therapist talked about the trap that marriage partners often fall into: Focusing on the kids, job, etc. instead of on each other. If both partners, especially women, don’t make physical intimacy a mental priority, it will likely not happen.
Thanks for all you do for those in marriages that are sexless. I wish more withholding spouses would read this blog and realize the damage they are inflicting on their spouse and the potential consequences of their actions (divorce, etc.)
I’m so saddened that you’re in a sexless situation.
I hear what you’re saying about the reasons, but I will make the case that you need to trust — a deeply safe environment — in which to communicate about the problem you two now face and make headway.
Hi J 🙂 How do I create a safe environment for a husband who won’t talk about our sex issues/intimacy and his refusal because he doesn’t feel safe to talk to me, but in rare moments of sharing honestly, says ‘I haven’t wanted to have sex with you since we got married because of your body.’ ‘You are sexually boring.’ ‘I go into each sexual encounter with you knowing it will suck.’ Etc…
Wow. That’s so not okay. Honestly, I’d set the stage for telling him you want him to be able to express his feelings, but if he insults you personally, you’ll have to check out of the conversation. Here’s an example of what I mean: “You are sexually boring” is entirely different from “I really want more variety in our marriage bed.” An open communication environment does not mean there are no boundaries.
Hopefully, as this series unfolds you’ll get some more ideas on tackling this situation. I’m sure your heart is deeply aching. Praying for you, G.
I’m sure all those things your husband must have said were extremely hard to hear. However, if he almost never shares his deepest emotions with you and he did this time, either this is how he actually felt…or he has some deep pain and/or anger towards you and it he was trying to hurt you.
In either case, I think you have to reingage with him on those things. It might be incredibly hard to hear his feelings, but I can guarantee that if you don’t things will only get worse with time. But don’t just let him say things like “sex will be boring.” Ask if what he wants sexually to make it not boring. If he says your body bothers him, ask him if you worked on it if that would help and then commit to do it.
He might be at a place where he doesn’t feel that anything can change, and so bitterness has taken over. If he has a problem with porn, he may have decided it’s better and easier to go that route than to work on the sexual aspect of your marriage. If porn is an issue, you’ll have to work on this as well with him.
I agree, Brian, but I stick by my caveat that personal insults are not okay. And it’s reasonable to set some calm boundaries.
I absolutely agree that it’s not ok, and she doesn’t deserve to be insulted. However, in this situation I would bet that his preference is to say nothing at all and that although this might be how he feels he would be happier just to not address it even though it’s hurting him too. In that scenario, she is going to have to get him to communicate his real feelings no matter the cost, because the cost of NOT doing so is far greater.
I think counseling is probably your best bet, but most men despise the ideal of counseling so that may not be an option at first. Boundaries are good, but right now in my opinion you have a far more serious issue than him hurting your feelings. Communication has to be established to get at the real root of this.
As a man who has a very hard time sharing my own pain and deep emotional feelings with my spouse, my advice is to engage in any way that he will engage at first. Once you break the barrier and he knows that his feelings are safe with you, you can move towards changing how he communicates his feelings in a way that is less hurtful for you to hear.
Brian, this — ‘I haven’t wanted to have sex with you since we got married because of your body.’ — isn’t expressing his “real feelings.” It’s insulting her personally. If he cannot talk to her respectfully and express his concerns, yeah, counseling is the next step.
I don’t think you mean to do this, but it could be inferred from your article that you are placing the blame for a sexless marriage on the refused spouse. I cannot say this in every case, but every refused spouse I have spoken to has blamed him/herself for this problem for years.
I read countless books, I went to 6 counselors, I took over all the housework even though I worked a fulltime job, I told her she was beautiful and wanted to be close to her, I completed her ever-changing list of requirements, I kept the kids, I helped her in her job, I took her on vacations, I begged her to go to a doctor, I accepted blame for everything she thought of, but nothing was enough. I prayed for God to change me, to take away my sex drive, to show me my failings as a husband, I asked my preacher and elders to show me what I was doing wrong so I could improve.
After 22 years of 6-8 week intervals and 6 years of total celibacy, she told me that I should be happy and fulfilled in a marriage that NEVER included sex. Then she told the last counselor that the ONLY reason we didn’t have sex was because I didn’t ask enough. She failed to mention that every time I asked, she would tell me that my penis didn’t work anyway.
I know you have good intentions, and are just trying to help. But please realize that many refused spouses have criticized ourselves longer and harsher than you ever could. The last thing we need is to be told that there is MORE that we need to be doing.
In my opinion, the problem is this. The spouse with little or no sex drive does not see a sexless marriage as a problem. He/she just thinks that this is how things should be. My refuser just thought that I should NEVER want sex unless she did, and if I did not like it, that was my problem. So until a refusing spouse believes tnat a sexless marriage is a problem, he/she will not be motivated to change anything and the refused spouse will continue to suffer.
I am just asking that you please be gentle with refused spouses. We are not insensitive, arrogant jerks. Some of us were told that if we abstained from sex before marriage, we would be able to enjoy a somewhat satisfying sex life in marriage. But we have endured celibacy for years in hope that God would someday help us. Unfortunately, many of us are still waiting, and hearing that there are more ways we have failed is really hard to hear.
I have no intention or desire to criticize the refused spouse. I feel enormous compassion. For instance, I’ve written posts on What Long-term Sexual Refusal Does to Your Spouse and Just Because He Stopped Asking Doesn’t Mean He Stopped Wanting.
However, I am aware that the refusing spouses are far less likely to read my blog than those refused. So I try to tailor my message to the one who comes here to read the posts and can take actions to influence the situation. I certainly don’t think it’s a failure on your part, but maybe there is something else that can help.
You are exactly right. Refusing spouses are very unlikely to read anything here, because they have no problem with a sexless marriage. Just as a person who is actively having an affair is unlikely to look for information about why their behavior is wrong.
But the person in an affair is allowed no excuses for his/her behavior, while the refusing spouse is told that he/she is just misunderstood and the other spouse needs to stop being a horny jerk. Thankfully, you do not do this, but many other “Christians” have this attitude. As for I Corinthians 7, it might as well be removed from the Bible for all the attention it is given by most churches.
It is interesting that you mention this article, ” What Long-term Sexual Refusal Does to Your Spouse” because it was my email that prompted it. My refuser never changed, and never will. We are on the way to divorce, and she has lied about me to get my church friends to turn against me. Unfortunately, it has worked very well. Of all of my church friends, only one remains. It is very tough and I feel like God has totally abandoned me.
My point is that I do believe that you care about the refused spouse. But please be gentle with us. We have been beaten down more than you can ever imagine. And frankly, I cannot take much more judgment and condemnation.
I don’t know but I suspect that some to many of the spouses finding themselves in a sexless marriage might label their relationship as platonic roommates or some such term. Admittedly we have here a many-orbed dynamic. For me the vast discrepancy in “being affectionate” is a related hurdle that can seem insurmountable. I can tell you it is very hurtful to desire intimacy and romance when a felt need for genuine affection goes unmet. My wife of many yrs loves me yet does not convey that in the ‘language’ that describes myself. I have always hoped this might be an area of change for her, but not yet.
On a related note, and after reading another insightful blogger, it may just be that her dopamine fix is best filled from FB and the iphone. Who can compete with an endless quantity of images and stimulants?! Well, thanks for your attention to this topic and your desire to receive input and case histories that may benefit many, many spouses. May God continue to gift you with both that intention and the wisdom to address this great need.
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After just having come off The Pill after having been on it for most of my married life, I can honestly say that my sex drive was diminished. I don’t know if I am the only one, and I certainly don’t want to put others off what is probably the safest contraceptive out there… but that is my story. I came into my marriage with a lot of emotional baggage and I think some of the trust issues I had would have been easier to overcome if I had a fully functioning sex drive!
That really makes a lot of sense. I wish there was another method that was just as reliable. I have heard that the nuvaring uses a much lower dose but is more effective.
It would get interesting to hear if there are any studies out there on the effect of The Pill on women’s sex drives.
There have been many studies on this very topic. And here’s the upshot: Results are mixed. Indeed, a widely reported study attempted to discredit the notion that hormonal contraception and libido are negatively linked, labeling it a “myth” and suggesting that the relationship factors are the real issue. But even they recommended further research in this area.
I’m simply not ready to buy that there’s no link due to the number of women I’ve personally known who have reported this effect — as well as my own experience of being on oral contraceptives, sinking into depression (twice), and getting off them to have my sapped mood immediately lift. I don’t think it’s a myth, but I don’t think it’s well-understood and it doesn’t happen to everyone.
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@Doug: ““Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).”
I think you are completely off base in your exegesis of this passage. The desire that is being referred to has nothing to do with sexual desire. After all, a wife’s sexual desire for her husband is a blessing not a curse. The curse here is that her desire will be for her husband’s role in the marriage, i.e. a desire to usurp his headship role. The New Living translates this as “your desire will be to control your husband” and the ESV translates it as “your desire will be contrary to your husband.”
The word “desire” here is the same as used later in Genesis 4:7:
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
There is a parallelism here. “Desire” in 3:16 is about control just as it is in 4:7. Also, in the context of the curse on Adam and Eve God cursed the things that defined each ones role within the marriage and then he cursed the marriage itself.
1- Husband as breadwinner is cursed
2-Wife as bearer of children is cursed
3-Husband as head of the home is challenged by wife’s “desire” for his headship. This sets the context for Paul’s command to wives to respect their husband’s headship
4-Husband’s responsibility to love his wife is challenged by his (not so benevolent) “rule” over her, which sets the context for Paul’s command to husbands to model Christ’s love for the church in his love for the wife.
Mitt, your take on Genesis 3 is common nowadays. It was not always so (see Peter Martyr, Calvin, Luther). You assume in Genesis 3, God is acting as a wrathful Judge on a cursing spree. Yet He explicitly states He only curses two things: the serpent and the earth. Man and woman are never cursed. I take the position that God is acting as Great Physician. Everything is done to benefit the life of woman and man going forward. The changes are calculated to work for their good. Where prior to the tree, there was no clear sense of leadership — Adam and Eve seemed to view each other as peers — afterwards, the headship of the man is emphasized to the woman. Likewise, the woman’s sexual desire is enhanced and linked to how well the man leads, to stimulate him to act lovingly, masculine and achieve — look how a sexless marriage affects a man! No doubt women almost automatically test men, but this too is a prod for good. A man should welcome the challenge presented by his woman’s tests — to make him a better man — not pass them off as a devious plot to overthrow him. Pass her tests and you will be richly rewarded.
Most reformed/evangelical scholars believe the headship of Adam was established prior to the fall and that the fall simply brought conflict into what was previously a healthy marriage relationship that was created as a patriarchy, with God as the first patriarch. Your view is not orthodox and is theologically unsound for a lot of reasons. Placing the woman in the position of a “tester” of the man’s worth is an upside down view of headship. Your view is the exaltation of women as the superior sex and is most closely identified with pagan goddess worship. Don’t blame Luther or Calvin.
Mitt, no doubt Adam was created as Eve’s head. Accordingly, it should have been reasoned by the order of creation. Nevertheless, the Lord had to emphasize the fact TO EVE afterwards. Likewise, it is reiterated TO WIVES throughout the NT: “Wives submit to your husbands.” But this is wrongly taken to mean women want to dominate men! We don’t see this played out in Scripture. We do see women sexually desiring men all throughout Scripture:
“And it came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
Right desire. Wrong man.
See Song of Solomon.
Want a woman wants is a decisive, masculine leader. One that intensely loves and appreciates her. [Redacted…]
Mitt & Doug — While this is an interesting discussion to y’all, it’s getting way off-topic, and I’m just going to finish it out here. My own opinions on the relationship of man and woman in marriage are easily discerned through my website, and I’ll leave my thoughts at that point. May God bless you both!
My reference to Calvin/Luther/Martyr was in regard to the Lord acting as Physician, not Judge in Genesis 3:
“For God does not consider, in chastising the faithful, what they deserve; but what will be useful to them in future; and fulfills the office of a physician rather than of a judge.” —Calvin, Gen. 3
Sadly, Calvin and others promoted patriarchy:
“She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.” —Calvin, Gen. 3
We must chew the meat and spit out the bones, as they say.
In what sense were Adam and Eve part of “the faithful” whom God was merely chastising? Your approach to patriarchy is the least of your problems. Calvin believed in the doctrine of total depravity, which means the sin of Adam and Eve separated them from God who is a righteous judge of the unrighteous. By minimizing the significance of the fall, you then minimize the significance of the atonement of Christ, who made it possible for us to even approach the throne of Grace. Once regenerated, we then enjoy the healing power of the Holy Spirit. But the vast majority of humanity is under judgment, subject to the penalty of death.
Calvin in no way was calling the Lord a physician of the unrighteous. It sounds as if you have spit out the meat of scriptural truth and swallowed the bone of feminist ideology.
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