Recently I wrote a post encouraging women not to use lack of sex as a form of punishment for their husband’s bad behavior. I encouraged wives to think of sex as a gift from God. I enlightened some and reminded others of God’s plan to enhance oneness, allow us a way to procreate and to provide us with a form of worship when He created sex. I asked the wives to hold themselves accountable to the Lord for misuse of His gift and lastly directed them to Scripture which would help them to understand why they shouldn’t misuse the gift, but also teaches them how to get back in right standing with God.
The comments and emails that followed inspired me to write this post because so many Christian wives desire to be obedient to what the Word says about marital sex (1 Corinthians 7:3), but they express some valid concerns about various situations that could cause them to be disobedient to God’s instruction. After reading the comments and emails I felt the need to ask husbands to hold themselves accountable for their misuse of the gift of sex. Obviously there are some very fundamental things about being a Christian husband and having authority over your wife that many husbands need to hear.
These comments and emails run the gamut of things like: “I can’t say no when I’m tired?” “What if I have a physical ailment that prevents me from having sex?” “What if my spouse is saying no to me without a mutual agreement of prayer?” Possibly the comments that for a lack of a better word, “bother” me the most were these:
One reader says: “Ok. I have to disagree slightly. Not the part on using it as a tool to ‘reward or punish’ but the fact that you don’t suggest another alternate method. Truth is, you end up cutting him off, not because you really want to ‘punish’ him, but because you can’t make a mental connection with someone who has hurt you. You just can’t get into ‘it’. and if your hubby can’t pick up on the fact that you’re not into ‘it’ because of whatever fight you’ve just had, but he still insists on getting his ‘way’ then that makes it tantamount to him forcing himself on you. Surely you don’t think the bible advocates forcing yourself on your spouse? Yes, the instant reaction to a fight shouldnt be to ‘cut him off’. It should be to communicate until the issue is resolved. But telling women to still do what the man wants when they’re just not into it mentally (because of whatever fight they’ve had) will lead to women ‘faking it’ and letting the man just have his way on her. That doesn’t strike me as biblical.”
Another reader says: “I’ve never “cut him off.” I have thought about it. We’re going through a low time in our marriage right now (though honestly, all four years of our marriage have been tough) and I just don’t feel like it. He wants it. Lots. And I struggle with it. He’ll want sex after we’ve had a big fight and I feel like I still need some time to recover emotionally from the fight. I’m not allowed to say “no” ever. If he wants sex, he pushes until he gets it, and sometimes I’ve ended up feeling raped. It doesn’t matter how I feel – even if I’m absolutely exhausted because I’m sick and the baby has been up multiple times, he’s gotta get it. So sure, I know what the Bible teaches about sex. That doesn’t make it any easier.”
The reason I am bothered by these comments is because I know there are tons of wives, Christian and not, in the world going though similar if not the same experience. I am bothered because there are women in the world who want to be obedient to God, they want to submit themselves to the Lord as well as their husbands, but their husbands do not always make it easy for them to do so. I am bothered because some husbands are taking God’s precious gift and treating it as if it is something owed to them and not something given to be treated with tenderness and care. My prayers are with these women each and every day that they find peace in their marriages and in their lives. The feelings they are experiencing are absolutely NOT God’s intention for their marriages. Trust that God wants us to do things in a manner that involves decency and order (1 Corinthians 14:40); not with confusion, but in a way that involves peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).
My response to my readers who left comments on my blog, those who have sent me emails and to husbands who need to hear this is as follows:
A man can rape his wife and in no way is this is biblical or okay. While the Bible says we have authority over our spouse’s body, God is NOT okay with a spouse’s decision to abuse this authority. There are very serious consequences to misuse of a husband’s authority. 1 Peter 3:7 says that husbands should (not try, but just should!) live with their wives in understanding (New American Standard Version), consideration (New International Version), knowledge and honor (King James Version). These various interpretations call a husband to understand his wife’s needs and to be be considerate of them. They also require that once a husband is knowledgeable of his wife’s needs he is to honor and respect them. Husbands who do not live up to this expectation are at risk of having their prayers hindered. In that same verse husbands are called to look at their wives as equal partners, especially with respect to them being co-heirs to God’s grace. This means that a Christian husband should try his best to view his wife in the same way that God views her in terms of her worth. God would never misuse her, he would never abuse her and he would never call her to come under the authority of husband who belittles or devalues her. Even she, in the eyes of God, is worthy of His grace. When a man decides he wants to become a husband he is ultimately bringing himself under the authority of that Word. Any mistreatment of his wife has ramifications that put potentially put him in a state of Hell. Hell being a place where there is no God; where he doesn’t hear your call. When God stops listening to you because of the treatment of your wife, I guarantee you that the only feelings you will experience are confusion, loneliness, sadness and chaos…until you get yourself back into right standing with God and your spouse.
That being said God does not want a wife to have to ‘fake it’ with their spouse. A husband, Christian or not, should be able to sense his wife is upset, sick in her body, tired and/or is having an unresolved issue with a past argument. A husband who truly loves his wife wouldn’t even approach her for sex when he knows she is having difficulty emotionally connecting. His goal should be to try to be so connected, so “one” with his wife, that every feeling of unrest that she has literally bother him (in a way that shows compassion and concern) to no end. Forcing yourself or guilting your wife into sex is not love! His concerns as the husband should be to love his wive as he loves himself, because no man ever hates his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it (Ephesians 5:29). It the same way wives need to feel nourished and cherished by their husbands in order to feel loved. So what exactly does love mean? Love simply means that you are putting someone else’s needs before your own. If you need an example of how to put your wife’s needs about your own simply be reminded of Jesus, who hung on a cross and died for our sins. This was the ultimate show of love or putting our needs above His own. Of course He didn’t like being beaten, of course He didn’t like being stretch wide and having nails placed though His hands and feet, but He did it because He knew we needed to be rescued from sin. Christian husband in the same way, you have to become Savior to your wife, sacrificing yourself so that she might be able to be obedient not only to you (in all things, but especially with respect to sex), but to her Lord and Savior.
Because I know that not every husband is saved, because I know that not every Christian husband is aware of the love he must demonstrate for his bride, and because I know that there are Christians husbands who want to aspire to be what God I encourage you. I urge you to develop a set of communication skills so that you can acknowledge, accept, respect and reconcile those situations when a husband wants sex, but a wife cannot connect. Ultimately your wife does want to connect with you on a sexual level and she wants to be obedient to the authority you have over her body. But you are to be respectful of the authority you have been given over her body. You have to remember that God wants you to display “loving authority” over your wife, not simply “authority.” No way, no how, should a Christian husband ever feel okay with the fact that his wife feels raped, misused or abused.
Spouses, I want you to know that it is okay to say no and still be obedient to God’s word. Three things need to happen in order for this to be true. First, you both have to open up the lines of communication. Begin praying that God opens your spouse’s ears in a way that they can be receptive to the concerns of your heart. Both of you need to begin praying that God gives you understanding and compassion for your spouse’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Second, you both need to come to a place where you are in mutual agreement to abstain from sex. Third, you both need to use that time to ask God to work on that aspect of your marriage. Ask him to help you look at sex the way he intended. Husbands ask God to help you develop a more compassionate heart towards your wife. Ask him to help you see the worth of your wife the way God see it. Ask him to help you not to do anything that would be dishonor your wife and cause you to sin against Him.
Basically, I am encouraging you both to be in constant communication with God. This mutual agreement is not a time to simply break or walk away from sex with a feeling of relief. It is a time where some serious work and reconciliation has to happen, not only with your spouse, but with God. I encourage you in all things to keep God first in your marriage and I’m not just telling you that as a saying you always hear from people. I am asking you to be intentional about keeping God first in your marriage. It all starts with you getting on your knees and having an honest and open conversation with God. He knows we all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23), but he wants to work in your heart, in your marriage and in your lives.
So is it ever okay to say no to your spouse for sex…the answer is yes, but… I implore you to communicates, make sure the decision is mutually agree upon and that you both are using that time to pray about the situation.