Tag Archives: christian marriage

3 More Principles Christian Bloggers Should Affirm About Sex

Last week, I began covering misconceptions and false teaching about sex that still show up periodically on Christian blogs and in other resources. While we can have honest and reasonable disagreements about particulars, some principles should be affirmed by all Christian bloggers.

The first four principles from last week’s post are:

  1. Sex is for both of you.
  2. God created sex for more than reproduction.
  3. Sex is not just a transaction.
  4. Force and pressure have no place in the marriage bed.

Let’s address the remaining three.

5. Even within marriage, there are some limits.

“Anything Goes” is a song written by Cole Porter, not a verse written by the Holy Spirit. And yet, that is the attitude of a few Christian bloggers—that once married, you can do anything and everything. As if the words “I do” mean “I do any kinky, crazy thing I want.”

One specific blogger used Hebrews 13:4 as his proof text that all activities were equally fine once married. In the New King James Version, it reads, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Thus, the blogger interpreted that the marriage bed is undefiled no matter what happens.

But that’s not what the verse is saying! A better translation would be any of the following:

  • Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (ESV)
  • Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery. (NLT)
  • Let marriage be honorable in all, and the marriage bed undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. (BLB)

Hebrews 13:4 isn’t about green-lighting every kinky idea you’ve ever had, but rather keeping the marriage bed pure by avoiding adultery and sexual immorality. Plus, we have to consider how the rest of the Bible commands us to treat one another in marriage—and that doesn’t involve using our spouse as our personal sex toy.

Which brings me to another fallacy: that if God didn’t specifically ban an act, it’s automatically honky-dory.

Certainly the Church has at times banned or belittled a sexual practice that is perfectly fine. And we should not place undue burdens on believers, as the Pharisees did. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

But later in that chapter, Paul also points out: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (5:13). We should follow God’s direct commands but also apply godly principles to determine what can be on our bedroom menu and what should be left off.

We should follow God's direct commands but also apply godly principles to determine what can be on our bedroom menu and what should be left off. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 puts it this way: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

Faithful Christians can argue about where the boundaries are, but the idea that there are boundaries should be no-brainer.

6. Porn and erotica are bad.

Here’s another should-be-obvious point, but it’s apparently not. Because I’ve read plenty of excuses for engaging with porn or erotica—everything from “it doesn’t hurt anyone” to “we learn from it” to “it helps us get aroused for each other.” And then there’s the standby claims that porn is a reasonable substitute when a spouse won’t provide sex or that erotica is okay because no actual persons are involved.

If you want to know what I think about porn and erotica, you can head to any of these:

But the summary is that they’re bad for your soul and your marriage. They move focus away from your spouse and onto others; they prioritize the physicality of sex above any other aspect; and they normalize fringe activities and searching for that next high.

There’s the storytelling subgenre oddly titled “Christian erotica.” All that means is that it has the same purpose and effect as other erotica, but the characters are married. C’mon! Are we really that gullible? Is it somehow okay to involve others in your exclusive, one-flesh bedroom if they’re married too? Think through that logic, and you’ll find it’s not logical at all.

In addition, porn involves real people who get hurt. Do not cite their willingness, the pay they receive, or “amateur porn” unless and until you have fully researched porn’s high prevalence of abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and sex trafficking. And just because that girl looks twenty-one doesn’t mean she is.

Whether you want to call porn and erotica sin or not—and I believe it is—it’s definitely unwise. Just ask all the couples who had their marriages wrecked by it. Ask couples who had to walk the journey of rebuilding their intimacy. Even ask non-Christian experts who researched the subject thoroughly (An Open Letter on Porn, The Gottman Institute). And if you’re in a sexless marriage, engaging in porn or erotica will worsen an already difficult situation.

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7. The Bible is not your bludgeon.

Last, but not least, could we please stay away from sites that recommend using a Bible passage as your personal bludgeon against your spouse?

The Word of God definitely has something to say about what sex should look like, as well as what we owe each other within marriage. But the Bible is God’s love letter to you—not His edict against your spouse. The primary goal of reading Bible passages should be applying them to our own sin-filled lives.

What then does one hope to gain by pulling out scriptures and hurling them at our spouse? Is it our defense mechanism? Are we lashing out to make our spouse feel pain like we’ve felt? Or do we simply expect our spouse to hurt so much they’ll change to avoid more of it? Even if that were to happen, how would that improve your overall intimacy?

Let’s take the most common infraction in the area of sex: using 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to demand your spouse give you sex. Wanna see how that makes this blogger feel?

I actually like that passage because it’s NOT about obligation but the priority and mutuality of sexual intimacy. But you have to understand its context.

At that time, some Christians in Corinth had proclaimed celibacy a holier state so spouses were trying to avoid sex to be more spiritual. Rather than agreeing, the apostle Paul reasserts that God wants married couples to make love regularly, that sex is a crucial part of marriage, that we should not deprive one another as if that is a higher form of obedience when God Himself created sex for marriage! Paul’s not offering spouses a bludgeon, but rather affirming God’s invitation for couples to enjoy sexual intimacy with gratitude not guilt.

In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, Paul's not offering spouses a bludgeon, but rather affirming God's invitation for married couples to enjoy sexual intimacy with gratitude not guilt. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

But let’s presume your spouse is completely wrong—on this or something else—and needs conviction by the Holy Spirit. You still don’t get to be the one to hammer down judgment. As Christ said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, ESV).

What you can do instead includes:

But please don’t use God’s words like Thor’s hammer on your spouse. No matter how right you may be in what is said, how you say it matters quite a lot to our Heavenly Father.

Have you seen problematic teaching on these points? What other principles are important for Christians to affirm?

4 Principles Christian Bloggers Should Affirm About Sex

From time to time, I open up a post from a Christian blogger about sexual intimacy in marriage and find myself wondering what Bible they’re reading.

While the overall message about sex from the Church has improved a lot in my lifetime, misconceptions and false teaching still circulate. I worry about spouses looking for answers who land on such pages. Will they recognize the errors or be misled?

In an effort to correct the record, let me set forth seven principles every Christian marriage blogger should affirm about sex. Today I’ll cover four of them and next week I’ll wrap up with the other three principles.

1. Sex is for both of you.

Through the years, too many Christian-based resources have acted like God created romance for women and sex for men. Excuse me, but there is zero evidence of this perspective in God’s Word. God created sex to benefit and delight both husband and wife. And romance is for both of them too!

Just look at these verses:

  • “‘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” (Mark 10:7-8).
  • “I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10).
  • “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:3).
  • “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Songs 5:1).

God intends for two people to be willingly involved in sexual intimacy. Sex is not just for men. It’s for women too.

If we don’t understand that important truth, we may:

Let’s get this one right: God created them male and female, and He wants both to be sexually satisfied in marriage.

2. God created sex for more than reproduction.

Too many Christians historically believed that sex was just for the sake of having babies.

But if sex’s sole purpose is reproduction, does it matter whether you enjoy it? In fact, isn’t it better to do other things with your time when no baby is possible? Could sex simply be a necessary evil for the sake of breeding and/or a temporary surrender to the flesh?

While all this was happening, I imagine God up in Heaven like this:

Today, Christian theologians and leaders rarely argue that sex is only for having children. But many husbands and wives report that their spouse checked out after the children arrived or reached adulthood. And I’ve seen tacit support for this idea on a few Christian blogs.

While it’s incredible that connecting our body parts has the potential to create life, the Bible teaches that sex in marriage goes beyond reproduction. God designed it to bring pleasure and intimacy as well. Consider Proverbs 5:19: “A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” Ever sounds to me like past those childbearing years. And the entire book of Song of Songs celebrates marital intimacy without once mentioning children.

God’s design of our biology also displays His intention—with the health benefits of regular sexual intimacy, the presence of a woman’s clitoris (serving no reproductive purpose but providing ample pleasure), and the release of Oxytocin, a “bonding chemical,” during lovemaking. Research also shows that couples who engage in ongoing sexual intimacy are closer and happier.

3. Sex is not just a transaction.

It may seem obvious that God did not intend sex to be merely transactional, but plenty of statements suggest the opposite. Well-meaning Christian bloggers (and authors and speakers) may identify sex as something one spouse wants while the other spouse wants a different thing and then propose negotiating a trade.

Thus, sex becomes—dare I say it these days?—a quid pro quo. (Whatever your politics, I hope you laughed at that joke and don’t write me hate mail.) In case you still don’t know what quid pro quo means, it’s a Latin phrase meaning “this for that.” It’s like the saying, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”

There’s subtlety here. Because we might negotiate frequency, suggest taking turns with sexual pleasures or climax, or tend to our spouse’s emotional needs knowing all along that makes them more likely to attend to ours. But those aren’t in the same vein as “You do X, and I do Y, and we’re done.”

Sex should not be something a spouse does only to get some unrelated goodie from it. God designed sex to have goodies for both husband and wife!

Do things for each other because that’s what Christ-like love looks like! But don’t look at sex—or other good things in marriage like affection and communication—as trading chips in the game of marriage. You both deserve better.

4. Force and pressure have no place in the marriage bed.

For the love of all that is holy, if I read one more Christian blogger suggesting you have every right to demand, pressure, or even force your wife to have sex with you…

No, I did not say “force your husband,” because oddly, I’ve never read that. (I’m sure it’s out there, but I haven’t read it.) I have, however, read several articles written by both men and women with notions like “there’s no such thing as marital rape.” Oh hogwash!

But, you say, doesn’t my spouse owe me sex? Hey, I’ll be first in line to say that marriage should, if at all possible, include sexual intimacy! That’s how God intended marriage to roll.

But hopefully, you’ve read the rest of the Bible in which God makes it eminently clear that His people should not demand their rights or ignore the feelings and value of another person. Hopefully, you’ve read about Christ’s sacrifice and humility, providing us the example we should follow. And maybe we should all camp out on this passage for a while: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

Now I’m not talking about communication, confrontation, or nudging, which are all reasonable at various times in marriage. I’m talking about abuse, force, or persistent pressure.

Even from a practical standpoint, those are terrible ideas. Think of times in adulthood you’ve been forced or pressured to do something. Did it make you more excited about the event or less likely to enjoy it? Of course others can pressure us to do things we’re later glad for, but most times we walk away with resentment and a desire not to repeat the experience. Do you really want your spouse to feel that way about sex with you?

Stay tuned next time for three more principles all Christian bloggers, and Christians generally, should affirm about sex.

Have you seen any of these false teachings about sex? How have they affected your marriage’s sexual intimacy?

Note: This isn’t about airing out particular websites or bashing individuals. Let’s remain Christian in how we treat others, including our enemies.

You Say Your Wife’s Attractive, She Says No. Now What?

I got into a conversation recently with a husband about how his wife doesn’t feel attractive. He continues to tell her she’s beautiful, she continues to downplay or dismiss his statements, and at the end of the day, she still feels unattractive and he feels discounted.

Some of you —husbands and wives — can relate.

I’ve written before about the importance of wives embracing their bodies and being naked with their hubbies (you’re welcome, guys), as well as what a husband can do to help his wife feel beautiful.

But let’s revisit the issue today, because I’ve had a few insights since then. Especially since my own body has been changing a bit in the last few, menopause-is-frustrating years.

Why does she feel unattractive?

Numerous husbands don’t understand why their reassurance about their wife’s beauty isn’t enough to quell the worry in her heart. Shouldn’t a hubby’s view of the matter be the controlling one? If God and her husband say a woman’s pretty, why isn’t that enough?

If God and her husband say a woman's pretty, why isn't that enough? @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Let’s demonstrate what’s going on with a scale.

On the left are all the times throughout a woman’s life she has felt less than attractive — based on slights she received from others, comparisons where she felt short, trying on clothes that sent a message of not-good-enough, watching the “prettier” girls get more attention, witnessing her body change due to pregnancy, aging, weight gain, etc. Each of those is a small piece, but together they weigh down the side that concludes Not Attractive.

On the right is hubby’s assurance that his wife is lovely, and yes, each of his pieces is bigger, more important. But it’s still not enough to balance out the scale, because she’s internalized so many other messages.

Consequently, the answer may seem to be just tell her she’s pretty a lot. Eventually, the scales will balance and everything will be a-okay.

Except many of you already know that approach often doesn’t work. Certain obstacles make it unlikely that just heaping more compliments on your wife will convince her of what you already believe — that she’s genuinely attractive.

What are her specific wounds?

Author Leo Tolstoy wrote a brilliant first line for his novel, Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I don’t know that happy families are indeed all alike, but it’s so true that unhappiness can be very specific.

Likewise, your wife’s inability to believe your words about her beauty is not about a simply balance of unhappy versus happy. Rather, she carries wounds from her experiences, such that the answer isn’t re-balancing the scales on the whole as much as healing her specific hurts.

I’ll share a personal example. Nothing my husband could say about my breasts being enough for him could erase the daily memories of the junior high locker room, where I was so clearly the flattest chest in 6th grade. And 7th grade. And 8th grade.

Don’t get me wrong: His reassurances were meaningful and beautiful and welcomed. But they didn’t get at the core issue of this young girl inside me still wounded by judgmental glances, inconsiderate taunts, and feelings of inadequacy. My difficulty believing my husband wasn’t personal against him; it was rooted in my woundedness. And I didn’t shed that sense of not-enough until I addressed the underlying hurt.

What are your wife’s specific wounds? Was she teased about her body? Has she struggled with weight? Was she actually the “pretty one” valued for her beauty, but now her body doesn’t measure up to that standard? Was she sexually harassed in part because of her shapeliness?

I don’t know what’s going on with your wife, but you should. You should ask why she feels unattractive and what incidents in her life have caused her to feel less-than.

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Should you validate her viewpoint?

I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last few years. I’m still not a large woman, because I spent most of my life being rather skinny. And no, skinny isn’t fun either, ladies. Just trust me that a lack of curves can be as difficult as an excess of them. But I’ve added about 25% to my body mass, and it’s been a challenging adjustment. I don’t know how many times now I’ve mentioned to my (beleaguered) husband that my midsection is Out Of Control.

Spock, beautiful husband that he is, tends to respond with statements like, “Just more of you to love!” Does that make me feel better? Sure, it does. Right up until the next time I look in the mirror.

My hubby has also turned to such options as suggesting diets, exercise, and other ways to address the Michelin tire inflating just below my waist. This did not make me feel better, despite his good intention to help me address the weight gain.

And Spock has tried various other approaches to assuage my fear that I will increase in belly size until I look like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the girl who inflated to a large blueberry before being rolled away by the oompa loompas.

And only recently did it occur to me what I really want when I discuss this issue. I suspect it’s what most women who feel unattractive want.

I just want to be heard.

I don’t want my husband to validate my viewpoint. Indeed, I hope he genuinely believes I’m more attractive than I often feel.

But I do want him to validate my feelings. I want him to sympathize with my woundedness and my struggle. I want him to let me tell my story and work through how to address the issues. I want to know he’s on my side — not just believing that my beauty is worthwhile, but that my story is worthwhile too.

So how can you help your wife feel attractive?

Ah, I made you wait until the end to give you actual tips! (Unless you cheated and scrolled down to this heading, in which case go back up and read the rest.) But at least I’ll make this part easy with bullet points!

  • Ask her to share her story of why she feels unattractive. What messages has she received throughout her life about her beauty, and how does that impact her feelings now?
  • Listen and validate her feelings. Not her viewpoint—her feelings. You can say that you don’t agree but you understand better now why she feels that way and how hard it is for her to believe she’s beautiful.
  • Tell her why she’s attractive to you. Be specific, including aspects like what drew you to her, what parts of her face and body are particularly appealing, what you see when you look at your wife.
  • Don’t expect a one-and-done. This should be an ongoing discussion, not a single conversation. In fact, be willing to listen again and again and spread out your compliments, so they build up and help to tilt the scale some.
  • Offer to support her positive efforts to address the issue. That could mean treatment for an eating disorder, counseling for past wounds, a gym membership, walking the neighborhood with her, helping her update her wardrobe with more flattering clothes. Mind you, this doesn’t involve cooperating with negative efforts, like fad diets or obsessive behaviors, but rather positive efforts that address physical and emotional health.
  • Don’t offer your own treatment plan. A corollary to the previous point is not to play fix-it with your wife’s beauty concerns. For instance, if she’s overweight, she doesn’t need you to tell her that more exercise and less food will result in less weight. If she feels flat-chested, don’t point to a plastic surgery billboard and say, “Well, we could buy you ones like that model!” Whatever your wife’s specific issue, you get the point.
  • Pray for her. This struggle doesn’t make sense to a lot of men, but it’s a fairly universal concern for women. Like it or not, what’s-acceptable beauty messages are pushed at us throughout our lives, and they take a toll. A loving husband can do a lot to ease that burden, but a loving husband praying for his wife is even better. As Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

I was tempted to say, “Tell her to search Scripture to see what God says about her.” Except such advice often comes across as offering a treatment plan: “Take two verses and call me in the morning.” Citing Scripture at her could be helpful or it could backfire, depending on your wife. So while it’s important for your wife to recognize that she was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that she is wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), maybe talk about those principles instead of throwing verses at her.

Now despite this post clearly being aimed at husbands, I invite the wives to chime in, so men can better understand and address this our body image worries.

Ladies, what would help you to overcome your concerns about attractiveness? What could your husband do to help?

10 Takeaways from the Spark Marriage Conference

Whether your marriage is on the brink of divorce or humming along pretty well, it’s worth reading books, taking classes, or attending conferences and retreats on marriage. In the years when things were terrible in my marriage, such resources kept my head above water and my commitment firm. Now, they help us fine-tune our marriage machine.

Last Friday evening and Saturday, Spock and I attended the Spark Marriage Conference hosted by Lakewood Church.* I was particularly interested in this one because Emerson Eggerichs was a keynote speaker, and I had recently reviewed and written about his Love & Respect book.

Since I doubt you were there, here are my top ten takeaways from the Spark Marriage Conference.

1. People are hungry for marriage education and encouragement.

Lakewood’s a big church, so a large attendance isn’t surprising. But as I looked over the crowd, I realized I’ve never been to a poorly attended marriage class or event, as long it was publicized enough for couples to know about it. Marriage books do well in bookstores, marriage ministries are popular, and online marriage advice is voraciously consumed.

People want to know how make their marriages stay together and be better. But instead of letting them wander around grasping at advice here and there, let’s introduce all those hungering people to God, the ultimate relationship expert. And those of us who know Him, let’s learn His design, study His ways, ask for His guidance.

People want to know how make their marriages stay together and be better. Christians, let's introduce all those hungering people to God, the ultimate relationship expert. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

2. Yes, Christians can publicly talk about sex.

Of course, if I didn’t believe that, my ministry would be over tomorrow. But I’ve heard from a lot of people through the years saying church leaders never mention sex. Yet with all those people in attendance, author and speaker DeVon Franklin addressed conflict over sexual intimacy in marriage: “In my experience, sometimes there’s a difference in sex drive.” No one freaked out; in fact, they clearly agreed.

Then DeVon shared what he learned about how his behavior contributed to the mismatch of desire in his marriage. As he said, “if I’m not transparent, we can’t get transformed.” That’s what I believe so many Christian couples ache for: transparency about sexual intimacy challenges and how we can best address them in godly and realistic ways.

So many Christian couples ache for transparency about sexual intimacy challenges and how we can best address them in godly and realistic ways. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

3. Our marriages don’t always turn out as expected.

Sometimes I think I’m a strong person, and then I come across people like Jay and Katherine Wolf. They told their compelling story of heartache, loss, and struggle, as well as God’s presence in their darkest moments. Here’s just a snippet of what they went through:

Katherine Wolf’s vivacity was palpable, despite telling her story from a wheelchair that her husband had pushed onto the stage. But she was authentic in reminding us that our marriages can face trials we never anticipated and can only get through with the strength of Christ.

4. Let’s get real: Lots of us screwed up.

It was refreshing to hear comedy team Richard and Sheri Bright talk about their sordid past and coming to Christ. They did so in a humorous way, like admitting they’d been married for 40 years…if you count all their marriages together. The Brights were not Christians when they met and married, but came to Jesus two years after “shacking up” and fighting so much that he once screwed the front door shut so she couldn’t get in. They showed courage in sharing their past sin and what they went through to build a better relationship.

Likewise, a few years ago, I started to raise my hand in Bible class and confess that sometimes this Christian life ain’t so easy-peasy. Rather than getting flak for admitting I’m not a squeaky-clean church member, others acknowledged their own baggage and current struggles. We’ve got to let people in our midst confess we haven’t arrived, we all need a Savior, and sometimes our marriages are a mess.

5. God can reshape our lives into something beautiful.

Piggybacking on the last two points, my marriage and my life took detours from where I should have been or wanted to be. But I was reminded that whatever we go through, wherever we are, God can bring goodness into our lives…if we surrender to the Potter’s hands.

Illustrating this point, DeVon Franklin referenced Jeremiah 18:1-6, which reads:

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.

So your marriage didn’t turn out like you thought. God can still mold it into something beautiful. How is God wanting to reshape your marriage? How is He longing to reshape you as a spouse?

How is God wanting to reshape your marriage? How is He longing to reshape you as a spouse? @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
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6. We’re all still a work in progress.

Speaking of confessions, Spock and I argued…on the way to a marriage conference. Oh, the irony! Saturday morning, we drove from our side of town through busy Houston traffic to reach the event’s location. For most of the way, Google Maps was our guide. But the app didn’t tell us where the right parking garage was. I instructed my husband to turn right, he turned at the wrong right, and the next thing I knew we were blaming each other for the mistake. *facepalm*

If you’ve got marriage all figured out and never have any conflict, fantastic for you! And also, why are you here reading my blog? Or any marriage blog? Why aren’t writing The Definitive Marriage Guide, or How I Got My Spouse to Accept How Perfect I Am? For the rest of us, yeah, we’re going to mess up. We know it, our Father knows it. We just have to be willing to admit it when it happens. Sure enough, Spock and I apologized to one another and made up. It’s all good now.

7. Repentance and forgiveness go hand in hand.

Spock and I were both sorry for the spat we had on the way to the marriage conference. So it was easy to forgive. But something did happen at the conference that bugged me, and my disagreement with it is one of the takeaways. During one prayer, the leader prayed for those who had experienced affairs. I didn’t record what was said, but this is a loose rendering: “For those in marriages impacted by adultery, we pray that the spouse who did not participate in the affair will forgive. Help them, Father, to forgive and not let that fester in their marriage.”

Look, I’m in favor of forgiveness! But too often, we have shifted the burden of an affair or other betrayal in marriage to the other spouse needing to forgive. As if that is The Thing that creates a barrier to healing. Why wasn’t more time dedicated to praying the adulterer would come completely clean, ask for forgiveness, seek reconciliation, avoid temptation, find accountability? When we own where we’ve gone wrong in our marriage, that paves the way for forgiveness and restoration. Let’s pray for that.

8. Check generalizations about marriage with your own spouse.

I’ve talked about the trouble of stereotypes in marriage books, and I was thrilled to hear Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn, the authors of For Women Only and For Men Only, begin their talk with a caveat: Whenever they report what men and women said, you should ask your own spouse, “Is this true?” The Feldhahns pointed out if they say 75% of men feel X, by definition that means 25% of men didn’t feel X. And the same for their research on women.

We’ve found this to be so true in our own marriage. For instance, we fit some stereotypes—like I’m more auditory, he’s more visual; I’m more emotional, he’s more logical; I’m more talkative, he’s on a restrictive word diet. But we go against generalizations in other ways, like I’m the higher-drive spouse and, if I had to choose, I’d rather be respected than loved. Whatever you learn about gender and marriage, even here on my blog, don’t just assume it represents your spouse perfectly. Ask if it’s true for them.

Whatever you learn about gender and marriage, even here on my blog, don't just assume it represents your spouse perfectly. Ask if it's true for them. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

9. Marriage insight should never be used to force your way.

Yep, one of the reasons I attended the Spark Marriage Conference was to hear what Emerson Eggerichs is saying in person these days. While I still have a couple of issues with things he said, it was rather balanced in addressing both men and women (reinforcing my belief that Eggerichs should update Love & Respect with a new edition). It was particularly refreshing, however, to hear him state very clearly that the perspective he shares about men and women should never be used as a club against your spouse.

Eggerichs reiterated that if you stomp all over your spouse’s need (love or respect) to get your need met (respect or love), you’ve missed the whole point. The goal should be not getting what you deserve from your spouse but discovering what you can give them—how you can meet your mate’s emotional need. Yes, you can explain yourself, but demands and abuse are not in line with God’s view of marriage.

Side note: I cringe when a husband writes me and says he keeps forwarding my articles to his wife in a forceful attempt to get more sex. Please don’t use my materials as a cattle prod to push your spouse into giving you what you want. Invite them into the conversation and then listen and love.

10. Shaunti Feldhahn agreed to be on our podcast!

I really enjoyed hearing from Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, who presented their research findings and marriage insight with authenticity and encouragement. What they shared was great for launching Is this true for you? conversations with your mate. But before yesterday, I was already a fan, having read many of Shaunti’s books. In fact, the book table only had one book I hadn’t read, so I bought it to be signed by her.

And while I had the chance, I mentioned our podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wives, and she joyously agreed to come on sometime! I don’t know when that will be, but make sure you’re subscribed to us on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever podcast app you use (I use Pocket Casts) and/or follow our blog.

Got any questions for me about the conference?

*Lakewood Church is the home of Joel Osteen ministries. I’m not a fan of Osteen and disagree with his prosperity gospel, but I was impressed by how much Scripture and prayer were shared during the conference and the church seems to have an active marriage ministry.

My Thoughts on Love & Respect: Part 3 (Sex)

Let’s wrap up my three-part series on the book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs, by Emerson Eggerichs (2004). The first part in the series addresses Eggerichs’s general premise and whether he advocates abuse, and the second part addresses the “Crazy Cycle” and his take on gender roles.

Today let’s talk about Eggerichs’s views in the area I usually write about! Sex.

Eggerichs covers sex in marriage primarily in his chapter titled “Sexuality—Appreciate His Desire for Sexual Intimacy,” which appears within the section on the “Energizing Cycle.” This part is dedicated to “principles, techniques, and common sense to help husbands and wives learn how to practice the Love and Respect message on a daily basis” (106).

For what it’s worth, he starts with chapters telling husbands how to meet their wives’ need for love and then goes on to advise wives how to meet their husband’s need for respect. Likewise, that’s where I’ll begin.

To the Husbands

In his chapter on Closeness, Eggerichs advises husbands: “be affectionate and attentive every day, not just on days you want sex. Affection should be an end, not a means” (121). Well, yeah! I’ve talked about this on my blog too:

In the next chapter on Openness, Eggerichs covers the importance of a husband sharing and being transparent with his wife. He finishes that chapter with this advice:

“And one more thing. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, remember that if you are good-willed and open to your wife emotionally, she will feel close to you and open with you sexually. To put it another way, you must not be open to ‘get sex.’ A wife sees through that and is turned off sexually. But when you authentically meet her emotional needs, she’ll be empathetic to your sexual needs” (130).

I’ve done this ministry long enough to know we should not make guarantees like “when you do X, she’ll do Y.” Sometimes a spouse does everything right, and their mate still refuses sex. Sometimes, the refuser has good reasons their spouse is unaware of (e.g., past sexual abuse or pain during intercourse). My point is simply that some situations are more complex.

But overall, I agree with the advice. I’ve talked plenty about how external factors affect a wife’s willingness to engage sexually and ways a husband can pave the way. For example:

To the Wives

Eggerichs begins his chapter telling the story of a wife who delivered an ultimatum to her husband: she would not respond sexually until he met her emotional needs. The wife later became convicted that she needed to be the bigger spouse and attend to his needs first. “She didn’t have that need for sex. It wasn’t within her, but she realized that this was her husband’s need, and the Lord had spoken to her about meeting his need first” (220).

In my copy of the book, I jotted in the margin: “Is this statement about this particular couple or men and women generally?” Because it’s a great idea to be the one who takes the first positive step! As I discussed in the first post of this series, marriage should involve extravagant love, and extravagant love goes above and beyond. (See Sex and Friendship: Are They the Chicken and the Egg in Marriage? and You Go First—The Forgiven Wife.)

As I continued to read, Eggerichs made it clearer that he views sex as the husband’s need and intimacy and affection as the wife’s need: “Sex for him and affection for you is a two-way street. Just as he should minister to your spirit to have access to your body, so, too, you should minister to his body if you want to gain access to his spirit” (220).

Is that true? Does a husband, as he says, have “a need for physical release through sexual intimacy” (221)? Let’s unpack that idea.

First, nobody needs sex in the sense that they will die without it. (Sorry if that’s news to you, but it’s true.) To husbands worried about that statement, I also agree that nobody needs flowers on Valentine’s, weekly dates, or romantic conversation. That said, all of these meet a deep emotional need for intimacy.

God created us for relationship—with Him and each other. So yes, one way of nurturing and expressing that connection in marriage is sex. It gets at our emotional need for intimacy in a physical way.

Second, the longer a higher-drive spouse goes without sex, the more the desire for connection is felt in a physical way. It’s like an itch that begs to be scratched, a hunger that growls to be sated, an overfilled balloon that needs to be released. So yeah, I get the concept of “a need for physical release.”

However, the higher-drive spouse isn’t always the husband. In fact, it’s often not the husband—as in 15-30% of marriages. While that’s still a minority, it’s millions of couples. My higher-drive wife group on Facebook, with nearly 600 members, will testify they feel the itch too!

Third, God cares just as much about her sexuality as He does about his sexuality. The point of 1 Corinthians 7:3-6 is not that your spouse owes you “access to [her] body,” but that mutuality matters. If anything, God starts with the hubby meeting the wife’s sexual needs! “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.” God presumes both genders want access to the other’s body, or rather physical intimacy within marriage.

And of course husbands want access to her spirit too. Most husbands enjoy their wives well beyond the bedroom. They just like who their wives are as persons.

The Problem with the Sex Chapter

Eggerichs provides some really good advice interspersed with some statements that had my head shaking as I read. But the real problem with his sex chapter is this: It includes the same erroneous or incomplete teachings that have been perpetuated throughout the Church and marriage resources for most of my life.

Emerson Eggerichs is hardly alone in espousing such ideas as:

  • “…he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release (intimacy)” (222).
  • “Husbands, particularly, can come under satanic attack when deprived of sexual release” (222).
  • Quoting a mom who chastised her grown daughter for withholding sex in her marriage: “‘Why would you deprive him of something that takes such a short amount of time and makes him soooooo happy!?'” (222).
  • “Men, especially, may smile, but the cold, hard truth is that men are often lured into affairs because they are sexually deprived at home. A man who strays is usually given total blame for his affair, but in many cases he is the victim of temptation that his wife helped bring upon him” (224).
  • “[The wife] cannot comprehend that seeing some well-endowed woman at the office with a plunging neckline would ‘turn him on.'” And later: “Simply put, a man is responsive to what he sees. He needs his wife’s understanding of his struggles” (227).
  • “Do your best to give him the sexual release he needs, even if on some occasions you aren’t ‘in the mood'” (227).

What comes across in such statements is the notion of a sexually driven husband who, of course, struggles with lust because he’s visually oriented, needs sexual release with his wife to avoid that temptation, and doesn’t really expect her to be that into it. In turn, wives are expected to sexually resistant, but admonished to “take one for the team” by putting out regularly.

We’ve covered some of these ideas in our podcast episodes on Lies Women Believe, Part 1 and Part 2. And more in Myths We Learned from Pop Culture. And wives can learn more about their sex drive with a replay of our recent webinar, while husbands should definitely check out our upcoming webinar on this topic for them.

But a lot of well-meaning Christians have given advice based on an understanding of sexual intimacy that sells both husbands and wives short. Husbands don’t just want a physical release; they want to make love to their wives. Men aren’t destined to lust or watch porn or cheat if they don’t get enough sex. Wives are not without sexual interest simply because their sexuality doesn’t look like a man’s. Women are not without their own sexual temptations and struggles. And, again, plenty of marriages have a wife with more sexual interest than her husband.

The Silver Lining

As you can see, there’s some good advice here from Eggerichs. However, I have concerns about statements like those highlighted above and how they could be misused to push outcomes not in line with God’s design for sex in marriage.

The good news is Eggerichs is trying to address this. He recently did a blog series on sexual intimacy:

There’s a lot I considered quoting from those posts, but here’s just one excerpt:

“This attitude of husbands that took a one-sided position to 1 Corinthians 7 and demanded fulfillment of their male conjugal rights was contrary to Abba Father’s revelation to husbands and wives. One cannot imagine the pain many wives encountered. Or, equally depressing on the other end of the spectrum were those husbands depriving their wives of sexual intimacy.”

Still, many more people will read his book than his blog. So where I come back to is what I said in my last post: It is past time for a new edition of Love & Respect. Eggerichs could clarify his thoughts, use new examples, and include warnings against sexual mistreatment in marriage. He could better explain God’s design for sex in marriage as a mutually satisfying, intimate, loving and respectful relationship.

In a Nutshell

Eggerichs’s advice to husbands is pretty good, and much of what Eggerichs says on sex will resonate with couples who face the situation of a husband desiring more sexual intimacy and a wife reluctant to pursue it. However, his admonitions miss the mark for many couples and don’t capture the fullness and goodness of God’s design. That said, I don’t find Love & Respect to be an outlier among Christian sex advice that I’ve heard most of my life.

Ultimately, we need Christendom at large to gain a better understanding of God’s design for sex in marriage. We’re making progress, but there’s a lot more to be done. Every Christian needs to understand that God made both men and women sexual beings and placed sex within marriage for both husbands and wives to foster and express intimacy.

Every Christian needs to understand that God made both men and women sexual beings and placed sex within marriage for both husbands and wives to foster and express intimacy. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Eggerichs could further that mission by engaging with Christian women with ministries in this area—me, Chris Taylor, Bonny Burns, Gaye Christmus, Sheila Gregoire, Juli Slattery, Julie Sibert, Ruth Buezis, take your pick—who could share wives’ stories that a male pastor, author, and speaker probably hasn’t heard. Then he could update his book. I suspect a new edition of Love & Respect would be well-received.

A different take: A Review of Love and Respect: How the Book Gets Sex Horribly WrongTo Love Honor & Vacuum