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A Biblical View of Sex in a Christian Marriage 1 Corinthians 7

A Biblical View of Sex in a Christian Marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-6)

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What is a biblical view of sex in a Christian marriage? What does the bible say about withholding sex from your spouse? What threatens enjoyable sex? Read or listen to this chapter from Your Marriage God’s Way for answers.

Your Marriage God's Way: A Biblical Guide to a Christ-Centered Relationship
Your Marriage God's Way Workbook author Scott LaPierre

The text in this post is from Your Marriage God’s Way, and the audio is from the accompanying audiobook. I am praying God uses the book and workbook to strengthen marriages and exalt Christ.

How do we determine the important topics in Scripture? I frequently tell my congregation that God does not use highlighting, italics, boldface, or underlining for emphasis. Instead, He uses repetition when He wants to make sure we don’t miss something.

Sexual intimacy is discussed several times in the Old and New Testaments. One entire book—Song of Solomon—is dedicated largely to the topic. When God’s Word addresses a subject repeatedly because it is important, we must make it important in our lives by learning what Scripture has to say. If we don’t do this, we are more likely for our understanding of that subject to be shaped by the world. When it comes to sexuality, we definitely want to know what the Bible teaches, for secular society has a thoroughly corrupt view of it. So let’s take a closer look at God’s intended design for intimacy in marriage, starting with three key truths.

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF SEX

Sex in a Christian Marriage Is Blessed by God

Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” The word “bed” is a euphemism for sexual activity, and within marriage, God calls this activity “undefiled,” which means “pure.” The same New Testament Greek word is used earlier in Hebrews 7:26 to describe Jesus, our High Priest, as “holy, harmless, undefiled.” God wants us to know there is absolutely nothing sinful or compromising about sexual activity between a husband and wife.

When it comes to wrong thoughts about sexuality, we typically think of the devil tempting people to disobey the second half of Hebrews 13:4 and engage in sexual activity outside of marriage. But what about when he tempts people to disobey the first half of the verse? He leads them to believe sexual intimacy is defiled, or impure.

I once counseled a man in his fifties who was addicted to pornography. I mention his age only because pornography is more typically considered a struggle for young, single men. But it can enslave men—and women—of any age, in any season of life. Let me say up front this man’s actions were sinful; there is no minimizing the wickedness of what he was doing. That said, after months of counseling, it became apparent that one reason for his addiction was a wrong view of intimacy. His mother told him at a young age that sex was filthy, and he was never able to rid himself of that belief. He told me, “I look at porn because at least then I’m not involving my wife in a dirty activity.” Though I tried to convince him otherwise, he never seemed to be able to shake himself free of his mother’s incorrect teaching.

In the Song of Solomon, the couple consummate their relationship in chapter 4, and we read of God’s approval in 5:1: “Eat, O friends! Drink, yes, drink deeply, O beloved ones!” This invitation is meant to encourage husbands and wives in their sexual activity. Not only should intimacy in marriage not be thought of as neutral, amoral, or nonspiritual, it should be thought of as good, spiritual, and blessed by God.

Sex in a Christian Marriage Is for Enjoyment as Much as for Procreation

God’s purpose for intimacy goes far beyond simply having children. Yes, God created sex so couples can fulfill His command in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply,” but He also gave intimacy as a gift for marital pleasure. The Song of Solomon is filled with passages that describe the ways a husband and wife can enjoy each other physically. Consider these verses:

  • “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is better than wine” (1:2).
  • “A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts” (1:13).
  • “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (2:3).
  • “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, which feed among the lilies” (4:5).

These verses (with perhaps the exception of the last one!) are discreet, but they describe the physical pleasure the husband and wife experience during sexual activity. They truly enjoy discovering each other and opening themselves up to each other. Within the marriage relationship there is a sexual liberty and freedom that God wants couples to experience.

What about oral sex in a Christian marriage?

Song of Solomon promotes oral sex. Consider the following metaphors:

This verse likely refers to the wife performing fellatio, or oral sex, on the husband:

Song of Solomon 2:3—As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

She praises him physically. “Sat in his shadow” means being beneath or below him.

These verses likely refer to the husband performing cunnilingus, or oral sex, on the wife:

Song of Solomon 2:16—My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.
Song of Solomon 4:16—Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Together in the Garden of Love
She: “Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.”

“Let spices flow” after the husband “[blows] upon [her] garden” is probably a euphemism for an orgasm.

Song of Solomon 5:1—He: “I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk.”
Others: “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!”

Song of Solomon 8:2—I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother—she who used to teach me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the juice of my pomegranate.

What about anal sex in a Christian marriage?

Anal sex is called sodomy in Scripture and 1 Corinthians 6:9 says, “sodomites…will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Sodomy is unhealthy, unnatural, and sinful. There is no place for it in a Christian marriage.

Sex in a Christian Marriage Is Commanded

I have counseled couples who have not been intimate for months, and in a few cases, even years. During the first counseling session with one such couple, I assigned them homework: have sex before our next counseling session one week later. They came back and still hadn’t been intimate. I gave them the same homework, but they still didn’t do it. You would think this wasn’t that difficult of an assignment, but it is for some couples. Was I out of line for giving them this encouragement? No. Look at this biblical view of sex:

It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband (1 Corinthians 7:1-3).

The phrase “touch a woman” is another euphemism for sex. Paul commands single people to abstain, but then says that it is equally bad for married people to abstain. Just as the devil wants to encourage sex outside of a marriage (fornication and adultery), he equally wants to discourage sex within a marriage. While we generally recognize that intimacy outside of a marriage is wrong, so we should also recognize that withholding intimacy in a marriage is equally wrong. Paul instructs married people to “render” to their spouses the “affection” or intimacy that is “due.” The Greek word translated “due” is opheilo, which means “to owe, be in debt for.” Here are two other places this term is used in the New Testament:

  • “That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed [opheilo] him a hundred denarii; and he…threw him into prison till he should pay the debt [opheilo]” (Matthew 18:28-30).
  • “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed [opheilo] five hundred denarii, and the other fifty” (Luke 7:41).

Spouses owe affection—or intimacy—to each other. Withholding intimacy out of anger or to be vindictive or manipulative is not only unloving and sinful, it is also dangerous, as we’ll see in the upcoming verses.

Your Body Belongs to Your Spouse

The apostle Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 7, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (verse 4). We discussed earlier a husband’s headship in the marriage relationship, so it is significant to see that with regard to intimacy, husbands and wives have equal authority over their spouse’s body. This makes sense because when it comes to marital intimacy, our goal should be to willingly please our husband or wife.1

Should You Ever Abstain?

While a husband and wife should not deprive one another of sexual intimacy, the Old Testament mentioned some circumstances during which couples should abstain from sexual activity. For example, when the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, they were commanded to abstain as part of their preparations to meet God (Exodus 19:10-14). A more ordinary period of abstinence took place after a woman gave birth. She was considered unclean for seven days following the birth of a son, and two weeks following the birth of a daughter (Leviticus 12:1-5). A similar restriction of seven days occurred when a woman was menstruating (Leviticus 15:19-24; 18:19; 20:18). The original purpose of these commands to abstain is found in an understanding of the sacredness of blood in the Old Testament: “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). Forbidding contact with a menstruating woman revealed the value placed on blood.

The obvious question for us today is, Should husbands and wives abstain on account of these Old Testament commands? Some couples choose to abstain because they believe these commands still apply. Others believe the ceremonial portions of the law—under which these commands fall—are no more binding than the commands to offer blood sacrifices at the temple. Romans 14:5 provides some latitude for couples as they address these types of questions: “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Couples should agree together regarding the circumstances under which they choose to abstain. Unless both husband and wife agree to abstain, they should not do so. This is supported by the apostle Paul’s words as he continues his instruction in 1 Corinthians 7:5-6:

Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.

Even when the New Testament discusses abstinence, it is for the purposes of “fasting and prayer,” as opposed to observing Old Testament commands. Paul also makes the point that couples do not have to abstain. Rather, he says they can do so if they choose to for the reasons mentioned. If a husband and wife go their entire marriage without ever abstaining, that is perfectly acceptable. If they do agree to abstain, the words “for a time” and “come together again” indicate the abstinence should be for a determined, limited season. The words “so that Satan does not tempt you” reveal the reason: There is greater potential for succumbing to sexual temptation while abstaining. In 1 Corinthians 7:9, Paul writes, “If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” First Corinthians 7:5 and 7:9 both teach that when people refrain from physical intimacy, their self-control is tested.

Husbands and wives must recognize that when they deprive their spouse in a sexual sense, they put their partner in a spiritually precarious situation. They risk making their spouse feel, once again, like a single person “[burning] with passion.” A man or woman who looks at pornography or commits adultery cannot blame the sin and lack of self-control on the spouse, but it is important to understand that husbands and wives who withhold affection are making their spouses more vulnerable to temptation. Knowing that fact, as well as the teaching that our body belongs to our spouse, makes us realize how committed we should be to satisfying our husband or wife—not just to obey God’s commands, but to help our spouse avoid temptation.

UNDERSTANDING EROS

Recall for a moment what we learned earlier about the fact New Testament Greek has various words for love—phileo, storge, agape, and eros. Eros is the type of love specifically related to sexual intimacy between husband and wife.

One of the important principles we looked at earlier is that love is not so much an emotion as it is actions: “Love suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). In contrast, eros is more of a feeling than a demonstration of loving action toward someone. It describes the sensation people experience when they are physically attracted to someone. The word eros is the root of the English word erotic.

While the word eros does not appear in Scripture, we can see this kind of love on display. Eros is what Samson felt in Judges 14:2 when he told his parents, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” Eros is how King David found himself in the worst trouble of his life when he stepped out on his rooftop and spotted “[Bathsheba] bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold” (2 Samuel 11:2). Song of Solomon gives a clear depiction of eros as it describes the strong physical attraction the man and woman feel toward each other.

Eros is self-centered in the sense it relates to the way a person feels and what a person wants. Little to no consideration is given to the object of one’s eros. Unlike agape, eros is conditional and will not move a person to be forgiving or sacrificial, which is why it’s important not to base a marriage on eros, or physical attraction. Many couples find themselves wanting to get married because of strong feelings of eros toward each other, but when the eros wears off, they will find themselves frustrated and uninterested.

That, of course, is the problem with eros: It can wear off. It can change with time, age, or physical appearance. When eros is the main reason for a relationship, couples often find out their union has no foundation at all. If a relationship is based on eros alone, then when eros is gone, the relationship is also gone. For a true and lasting relationship, the thrill and excitement of eros must be supported by a deeper, unchanging love and commitment. Eros must be based on the other types of love we discussed earlier—the sacrificial love of agape and the abiding affection and friendship of phileo.

That doesn’t mean eros is immoral or sinful. In fact, it is an important part of a marriage relationship. It is part of the attraction husbands and wives should feel for each other.

What if we lack eros for our spouse?

Let me give you three recommendations.

  1. Pray for God to restore, and even increase, your eros. It is a wonderful request, and one that you can be confident God wants to answer.
  2. Practice agape, because that will cause eros to follow. As we discovered earlier, agape is a choice versus a feeling. Making the choice to exercise agape, which means unconditionally sacrificing and loving your spouse, will grow your eros, because feelings follow actions. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.” Do what’s right, and your emotions will follow your behavior.
  3. Read the Song of Solomon with your spouse, because the example set by the couple can help you both to enjoy the physical aspects of marriage.

God gave us sex as a gift, but as sinful people in a fallen world, we have the potential to ruin anything good God gives us.2

The three of the most common threats to enjoyable sex in a Christian marriage

First, selfish attitudes threaten enjoyable sex

Husbands and wives should be committed to satisfying each other, but a Scripture passage must also be balanced in light of other Scripture passages. If 1 Corinthians 7 were the only passage we were to consider in relation to sexual intimacy, we can easily get the impression it is okay for us to demand that our spouse satisfy our desires regardless of the way he or she feels. But we have looked at other passages—such as Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3—that mandate love, gentleness, compassion, and deference in marriage. While it would be unhealthy and even sinful to sexually deprive our spouse for selfish reasons, it can also be equally unhealthy and sinful to be sexually demanding or insensitive toward our spouse.

Although Paul listed fasting and prayer as possible reasons for abstinence, common sense and simple consideration dictate there are other acceptable reasons— including sickness, pregnancy, and grief. When a spouse is suffering or struggling, he or she might find intimacy unattractive. Because sex should be an enjoyable experience for both the husband and the wife, couples should strive to ensure there is a mutual level of comfort and interest regarding intimacy. Love and respect require caring about how the other person feels. Selfish and unkind attitudes threaten the joy and pleasure God desires for couples.

Second, impurity threatens enjoyable sex

Of all the gifts God has given us, sex might be the one that is the most frequently abused and perverted. This fact is even more tragic when we consider that intimacy is most enjoyed when couples have pure hearts and minds. People who reserve all their desires and passions for their spouse will have the healthiest and happiest sex lives, which is why impurity is one of the greatest threats to intimacy.

We should rip our eyes and minds away from anything that provokes feelings of eros for anyone other than our spouse. Primarily, we should do this because God commands it as part of living a holy life: “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Secondarily, we should do this because failing to do so destroys the eros in a marriage. Individuals who give themselves over to pornography or lust find very quickly that they have no eros for their spouses.

Anytime impurity is an issue in a marriage, pornography almost always plays a role. My son Ricky recently shared with me how amazed he was that a bull can be controlled by a ring through its nose. He could not believe that a creature so big and powerful could be led around by something so small and insignificant. This is what pornography does with people: it does not matter how powerful or significant they are, when they introduce pornography into their lives, it enslaves and controls them.

We must also be concerned with what we set our hearts, thoughts, or feelings on. While there is nothing wrong with having friendships between genders, we should be cautious of becoming too close with people of the opposite sex. Even if your feelings for someone are pure and healthy, you cannot control how that person may feel toward you, and you don’t want to become the object of someone else’s misplaced affection.

When it comes to interactions with the opposite sex, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid becoming “the good listener” or “shoulder to lean on.” This is especially true with married friends who should be looking to their own spouse as a listener or shoulder to lean on. At the time of this writing, I learned of three prominent ministry leaders who experienced moral failure because of relationships with the opposite sex. More than likely, each situation began with casual friendships that escalated after the individuals became too close to each other.

Much of marital faithfulness has to do with contentment. Many in secular society view contentment as they view love—as a feeling or emotion over which they have no control. The Bible, however, presents contentment the same way it presents love—as a decision. In marriage, we choose to be content or discontent with our spouse. This is illustrated in Proverbs 5:18-19:

Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love.

Several words in that passage reveal the pleasure God wants us to experience with our spouse: “blessed…satisfy…enraptured.” Several other words and phrases reveal we have the choice to feel these ways toward our spouse: “Rejoice…Let her…satisfy you at all times…always be enraptured with her.” These are commands we can obey or disobey. Husbands and wives can choose to be content with their spouses, and this will go a long way in protecting their marriage and preserving their sexual purity. The couple in Song of Solomon had eyes and feelings only for each other. They were completely content with each other. As a result, their physical intimacy was healthy and joyful.

Third, mismatched desires threaten enjoyable sex

Because no two people are the same, marriages always involve many differences that have the potential to cause disagreements or problems when it comes to matters like finances, parenting, organization, and promptness. Among these differences are mismatched desires for physical intimacy. There will inevitably be times when one spouse desires sex and the other does not.

Let me present a situation that can happen in any marriage. Spouse A desires intimacy while Spouse B does not. While there are no contradictions in Scripture, there can be situations when biblical commands appear to compete. For example:

  • Spouse A might quote from 1 Corinthians 7 that spouses should not deprive each other sexually, and may even be insensitive enough to say, “I know you don’t want to do this, but I don’t care. You need to obey God and recognize your body belongs to me!”
  • Spouse B might then respond, “Why don’t you flip forward a few chapters and read about love in 1 Corinthians 13? And go to Philippians 2, which says you’re not supposed to look out for your own interests but to esteem others above yourself!”

So, should Spouse A’s desire for physical intimacy be satisfied, or Spouse B’s desire for no physical intimacy? We have seen in Scripture how God established a husband’s headship and a wife’s submission to break a stalemate so the relationship can go forward, but we have also seen that husbands and wives have equal authority over each other’s bodies. As a result, unlike most impasses in marriage, it is not as easy as simply going with the husband’s decision. For lack of a better way to say it, “Who wins?”

Boiling any conflict down to the simple question “Who wins?” is not only selfish, but will always cause problems. When I do marriage counseling, I try to avoid being a referee. That makes a marriage look like a competition, with husbands and wives placing themselves on opposing teams competing against each other. This could not be further from God’s desire when He joins two people together and makes them one flesh.

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF SEX SEEKS TO PLEASE THE OTHER

Rather than seeking to win, a better approach for each spouse is to seek to die to self and please the other. If both spouses have this attitude, this is what will happen:

  • Spouse A will appreciate the effort Spouse B makes to satisfy Spouse A’s desire for intimacy even when Spouse B does not want to be intimate.
  • Spouse B will appreciate when Spouse A puts Spouse B’s feelings ahead of Spouse A’s own desires for intimacy.

This approach allows couples to have a strong relationship and usually allows mismatched desires to resolve themselves. With that said, let me add an important disclaimer. If I had to suggest erring on one side or the other, I would recommend erring on the side of satisfying your spouse. Why? First Corinthians 7 commands husbands and wives to satisfy each other, and there are no competing scriptures telling believers that they do not have to satisfy their spouse. Yes, we have considered biblical instruction about being loving, compassionate, and considerate toward our spouse, but those verses have to do with the bigger picture of how we are to act and are not directly aimed at the subject of marital intimacy. While we have a direct command to please our spouse, any verses we might think give us an out from pleasing our spouse must instead be inferred; they don’t specifically apply to intimacy. A direct command carries more weight than verses that require inferences or indirect application.

Consider the results of both courses of action. The potential consequences of not satisfying your spouse far outweigh the “consequences”—if you want to call it that—of satisfying your spouse. There are not many drawbacks to pleasing your husband or wife, but when a spouse goes without physical intimacy, he or she becomes more vulnerable to temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Let me conclude this section on marital differences with this encouragement: We are prone to think that the best marriages exist between people who are the most identical, whether it’s their views on parenting, finances, sexual intimacy, or other important areas of life. But even the most compatible couple will have a miserable marriage if the spouses are selfish and insensitive. The healthiest relationships exist between people who recognize their differences— no matter how great—and are committed to moving beyond those differences and being giving, selfless, and sacrificial. This applies to every area of marriage, including intimacy. This “put the other person before self” mindset is one of the main ingredients for a joyful, Christ-centered marriage. And what does this have to do with Christ? Only through our relationship with Him can we enjoy this sort of relationship with our spouse.

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF SEX PLEASES GOD

As I have said multiple times in the previous chapters, God is for our marriages, and that includes our physical intimacy. Just as God wants other areas of our relationships to be strong, healthy, and joyful, He wants the same for sex in a Christian marriage. At the same time, however, we have responsibilities. If we stay within God’s design for intimacy, we can experience God’s best for us. Should we stray outside that design, we bring hurt, division, and pain into the marriage and our personal lives. We must be proactive about anything that would threaten enjoyable sex with our spouse. Selflessness and purity can ensure we have the fullest kind of intimacy with our spouse, while selfishness and impurity destroy one of God’s most beautiful blessings for marriage.

  1. Indirectly, these verses imply that whatever we do with our body should have our spouse’s approval. For example, if a man wants to have a beard, he should take into consideration whether his wife wants him to have one. If a woman wants to wear her hair a certain way, she should take into consideration her husband’s thoughts.

    We should make reasonable efforts to stay healthy. We want to be a blessing to our spouse, be around for many years, and be available to take care of our spouse if he or she becomes sick.

  2. Because we are sinners, we have the potential to ruin even the blessings God gives us. We can turn any good thing into a god thing or idol (you’ll see what I mean by “a god thing” in a moment). One such example took place with the bronze serpent Moses made in Numbers 21. Israel complained, and as a judgment, God sent poisonous serpents into the camp:

    The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

    Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Numbers 21:7-9).

    Tragically, over time, people began to worship the bronze serpent. When Hezekiah reformed the nation and destroyed the idolatry, he had to include the bronze serpent, which by then had developed its own name:

    [Hezekiah] removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4).

    The object that brought miraculous healing had become an idol. Nehushtan is a reminder that we must be on guard against taking any of God’s blessings—such as sex, marriage, children, homes, relationships, money, or jobs—and letting our relationships to them become sinful. Scripture doesn’t forbid any of these blessings, but we are forbidden from making them idols. Sex within marriage is no more sinful than the bronze serpent; however, when we become preoccupied with or worship sex, it becomes Nehushtan.

46 Responses

  1. What should you do if you realized that your wife is a covert narcissist? When talking about her behavior she responds typically narcisstic with gaslightning and blame shifting. She never apologize. Never confirm my feelings or the kids. 25 years we have been togheter. It’s very hard. I have realised that I am raised in family where my dad is and two sisters has narcisstic tendencies. And I became a codependent to my mother, being nice to everyone, and not standing up for myself til now. Is there room for divorce? She dont recognize her flaws once…it’s always me, because she cant take shame.

    1. Hello David,
      I am sorry about what you are experiencing with your wife. Comments like these are always hard to respond to, because the Bible tells us to listen to the other side before coming to a conclusion. So that I can respond, I will assume what you wrote is completely true.

      This might not be what you want to hear, but when you married your wife you committed to spend your life with her through good and bad. Unfortunately, it sounds like you are experiencing the bad, but it does not change your commitment to her. I just finished writing something similar to a wife regarding her husband.

      No, there is not room for divorce. Again, you covenanted with God to spend your life with her. I would reach out to the elders for counsel, and perhaps one of the elder’s wives can reach out to your wife to disciple her. If what you are saying is true, then your wife might not be a Christian and what she really needs is the gospel. Maybe she will not receive it from you, but perhaps you will receive it in counseling or from an elder’s wife.

  2. I was unfaithful in our marriage almost 20 years ago. My husband and I went to Biblical counseling and healed from this betrayal. I repented of my sins to God and to my husband and I have remained faithful to him. While we have been given a new relationship by God’s grace, we still lack sexual intimacy. My husband says he forgives me, but we have been intimate maybe (big maybe) ten times in four years. He rejects most of my advances- kissing, holding hands, etc. I shrug it off as he gives me excuses of he doesn’t like the mattress on our bed. We’ve slept in separate rooms for the past four years. We enjoy each other’s company as it relates to watching movies, shopping, worship, etc. But we have no sex life. He even said to me, he is glad God took his desire for sex. I don’t know what to do or say. If I mention lack of intimacy, he will get around to bringing up my indiscretions.

    1. Hello GAJ,
      I appreciate your humility and acknowledging your previous unfaithfulness. I’m also glad to hear that you and your husband received biblical counseling to heal from your sin.

      Although, I am sorry to hear about the lack of intimacy in your marriage. You mentioned your unfaithfulness. Are you saying that’s why your husband doesn’t want to be intimate? Later you said that he said God took away his desire for sex.

      If you help me understand why your husband doesn’t want to have sex, then I can better respond. In the meantime, there is a section of the post that provides three recommendations. I would encourage you to start applying them and see if your husband would as well.

    1. Hello Sarah,
      The problem is that getting married can be much harder than we want. In other words, even if someone wants to get married ASAP as you put it, that’s not always possible. I remember how much I wanted to be married, yet it took a few years to happen. What I would say instead is if people have the burning passion you are referring to in first Corinthians 7, then they should be doing two things. First, they should be preparing for marriage, and by that I mean preparing to be a godly husband or wife. Second, they should be reasonably pursuing a spouse by putting themselves in places that allow them to meet godly people of the opposite sex who are also looking to marry.

  3. How should a wife handle a lazy husband who does not put in equal effort for her pleasure in sex as she does for his? Should she put aside her pleasure and be doomed to a disappointing and frustrating sexual relationship? Is it selfish to care about having one’s own needs met?

    1. Erin,
      I am sorry about the problems you’re experiencing in your sex life with your husband. No, it is not selfish to care about having your sexual needs met. These are healthy desires God has given us and it is reasonable to want them satisfied.

      I feel like I would need to know more information to respond well, but using just what you wrote I would make the following recommendations. First, have you communicated kindly and respectfully to your husband that you wish he would put more effort into pleasing you? I think that is a very reasonable thing to share with him. You should also be prepared to explain to him what you would like him to do. Perhaps it is an issue of obliviousness and ignorance for him versus selfishness.

      Second, I don’t know what you mean about putting aside your pleasure and being doomed to a disappointing and frustrating sexual relationship. We all have crosses to bear. For some people it is cancer, a rebellious child, betrayal from a friend, etc. Perhaps for you it is a sex life that is not everything you desire. While you can want it to improve, just as a husband might have to accept that his wife is not as respectful as he wants or a wife might have to accept that her husband does not listen as well as she wants, you might have to accept your sex life won’t be everything you desire. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is true.

      1. Or, she could explain to him that she is not enjoying sex and set up boundaries if things don’t change. By boundaries, I mean no more sex for him unless he starts to take her seriously.

        1. Dan,
          I completely agree with you about setting up boundaries, but I am not sure I can see the scriptural support for completely withholding sex from a spouse. This goes for a wife toward a husband and a husband toward a wife. I base this on 1 Corinthians 7.

  4. My husband doesn’t accept No in sex. If I kindly ask him to wait for a few days he doesn’t stop, he doesn’t hear me. He says that he loves me and I am beautiful, and that I should be worry as I am pregnant already. And we have sex, but after it I am crying, I am angry, I don’t feel respected, I don’t feel I have choice and rights. My husband wants many kids. He doesn’t think I need a break between pregnancies even if I ask for it and tell a reason why.

    I love him but what should I do to help him understand? Because I don’t say no, we can hug (or do other things), but asking him in gentle way to wait, and have it like Thursday. But he says he doesn’t like schedules and it’s like a surprise, that life is unpredictable. And that’s how we should be living.

    Thank you. I hope God gives me an answer.

    1. Oleksandra,
      I’m sorry to hear about the problems you’re having in your sex life. Can you respectfully and gently share with him how you are feeling about your pregnancies? Also, have you thought of putting your pregnancies in God’s hands and leaving it up to Him? Perhaps praying that if God – who is the Author and Creator of life – doesn’t want you to be pregnant so frequently that He will provide some space? My wife, Katie, and I believe we should leave it in God’s hands, which is why I have provided this encouragement; however, there are times that I believe it is reasonable to delay pregnancy. But I would need more information to know whether that would be reasonable for you and your husband.

      The more I reflect on your comment, it seems to be an issue of consideration. I think it would be best if you tried to talk to your husband about these things as I said earlier, and if that still doesn’t work, reach out to one of the elder’s wives in your church.

      1. No, he’s raping her and expecting her to put her health at risk by constant and repeated pregnancies. I sincerely hope this woman gets some proper, sensible advice before something really terrible happens. Don’t reach out to anyone’s wife, get some help and protection. I really wish women wouldn’t try to get help for serious problems from sources which just aren’t qualified or equipped to give it.

        1. Jan,
          I agree with you that he is definitely mistreating his wife, but I would not go so far as to call it rape at least as I understand it. Rape would mean forcing her to have sex against her will, which it doesn’t sound like he’s doing. But he definitely lacks gentleness and affection that should characterize a husband’s behavior toward his wife.

          You wrote…

          I really wish women wouldn’t try to get help for serious problems from sources which just aren’t qualified or equipped to give it.

          Are you referring to my post? If so, I was citing Scripture. What higher or greater source could someone find?

      2. I’m sorry, a few days is a difficult request? Your counseling a women who has been hurt, that a FEW days is a difficult request for a man? If that man, who should be practicing to love his wife and SAYS that he loves her, can not wait a few days, to give his wife the space and time she needs-then he needs counseling. He can’t control himself for that long, he has issues. She needs proper counseling. I’m sorry for whatever up brining has allowed you to think this way and I’m sorry for anyone who is being taught that this is right.

        1. Jen,
          You are right. My response sounded bad. I edited it. I didn’t realize that’s how it sounded until you pointed it out. Thank you. In the Old Testament God expected men to wait 40 to 80 days after a baby was born and obviously men who are single must wait even longer, perhaps years. So it is not asking too much for a wife to ask her husband to wait a few days.

          Yes, her husband should be striving to love his wife as Ephesians 5:25 commands and dwell with her in an understanding way as 1 Peter 3:7 commands. Unfortunately, I can’t talk to him, so I can only give her counsel. I agree that she needs proper counseling, which is why I asked her to reach out to one of the elder’s wives.

  5. Good article, thank you. I am wondering what you would say about “kinky” intimacy… my husband is a recovered love addict and I have noticed my own tendencies for the same… we are 100% faithful to each other and have very strong boundaries up regarding the opposite sex and also for what we see, read, hear, etc. However, that doesn’t erase what we have seen in our pasts and I find our “sexual appetite” to be very secular, carnal and edgy. He thinks that it’s all okay, as long as we’re both on board, but, while my body agrees, my soul seems troubled… I’m not sure that these “expressions” are what God had in mind when he gifted us with sexual intimacy. What do you think? (For specifics, I’m talking about things such as mild BDSM)

    1. Hello Robin,
      I’m sorry, but without details – which I’m not asking for – I can’t comment on the appropriateness or inappropriateness. The fact the you said your “soul seems troubled” causes me to think you are convicted and don’t have the liberty to do whatever you are doing. Whatever is not of faith is sin. I would say that if you cannot do it without a clear conscience you should not do it.

      With that said, I appreciated your comment and it caused me to recognize and weaknesses in my post, so I added some content about oral sex and annual sex. Thank you.

    1. Hi James,
      I’m not sure if you mean what forms of intimacy are sinful, or what forms of intimacy are not found in Scripture? Can you elaborate a little and I’ll do my best to respond? Thanks!

  6. My apologies. I do want to give the impression that I am discouraging sexual activity between husband and wife. I just don’t think that is the point of Paul’s letter to Corinth.
    Thank you for the back and forth.

    1. Hi David,
      Thank you for your humility. While I don’t think an apology is necessary, I do appreciate the clarification. The discussion with you has been a blessing to me too.

  7. So Paul’s admonition to new Christians living in Corinth, an over-sexualized environment, to Christians who lacked self-control, to Christians who were engaged in immortality, Paul’s admonition was more sex not more self-control? I find your take on this epistle troubling.
    As for the purpose of Song of Solomon, when read in context with Ecclesiastes and 1 Kings, it is not difficult to see it as a case study on what happens when one pursues pleasures rather than obedience.

    1. Hello King Caspian,
      Again, I responded below your comments:

      So Paul’s admonition to new Christians living in Corinth, an over-sexualized environment, to Christians who lacked self-control, to Christians who were engaged in immortality, Paul’s admonition was more sex not more self-control?

      For married couples, yes, the admonition is sexual activity with their spouse. The Catholic Church has paid a terrible price for discouraging sexual activity, and so have others who have had the view that it should be limited within marriage.

      The place for self-control is with unmarried people. To say I’m discouraging self-control even with married couples wouldn’t even be correct, because plenty of self-control is still needed even when married. We must control our thoughts, hearts, and rip our eyes away from from immodesty and impurity.

      I find your take on this epistle troubling.

      David, I wonder why you would find it troubling that I promote sexual activity within marriage between and husband and wife? In years of pastoral ministry, the failure of men and women to think of their spouse and what their spouse wants has caused considerable problems. I’m surprised you’d further recommend that selfishness.

      As for the purpose of Song of Solomon, when read in context with Ecclesiastes and 1 Kings, it is not difficult to see it as a case study on what happens when one pursues pleasures rather than obedience.

      We clearly have a different view of Song of Solomon. You seem to see it as a “warning.” I see it as God’s guidebook to healthy, sexual intimacy. Also, while I haven’t read lots of commentaries, I will say I have never seen another person with your view of the book. When people ask if God has a book discussing sexual intimacy in marriage, Song of Solomon is the book to recommend, not prohibit.

  8. 1. Intimacy in Marriage Is Blessed by God
    Agreed. Hebrew 13 makes this clear. However, there is a lot of disagreement about who is talking in Song of Solomon 5:1. It is more likely their friends and family, given the circumstances (see below)
    2. Intimacy in Marriage Is for Enjoyment as Much as Procreation
    Not sure we want to use Song of Solomon as an example of a healthy sexual relationship. The two main characters in that set of poems are living in disobedience to God. They worship each other instead of God (Exodus 20:3). The groom has multiple wives and sexual partners (ch 6, v8-9) when kings of Israel were not permitted to do so (Deut. 17:17). Furthermore, the couple is not fulfilling God’s command to procreate (Gen. 1:28). These poems are sexual fantasy from a man who engaged in much sexual experimentation (see Eccl. 2).
    3. Intimacy in Marriage Is Commanded
    You cannot just read 1 Corinthians 7:1b–3. You have to read it in context with the previous chapter and read at least to verse 7, if not the entire chapter. Paul is very clear in verse 6 that this is not a command. Sex is a concession for new believers who lack self-control in the area of sexual immorality. Given Paul’s admonishment to Christians in Thessalonica to pray unceasingly and his letter to Christians in Galatia explaining the fruits of the Spirit, it would seem odd for him to command sex. The goal is self-control and a consistent attitude of prayer.

    When it comes to intimacy, our goal is to know and love our spouse, just as Christ loved the Church. If sex does not meet your spouse’s physical, emotional or spiritual needs, this might mean actually giving up any sexual activity for the sake of your spouse. We need to be careful about placing more burdens on Christian couples, especially when they are unnecessary and unrealistic.

    1. Hello King Caspian,
      I copied your post and will respond below your comments…

      1. Intimacy in Marriage Is Blessed by God
      Agreed. Hebrew 13 makes this clear. However, there is a lot of disagreement about who is talking in Song of Solomon 5:1. It is more likely their friends and family, given the circumstances (see below)

      Even if it’s friends or family members saying the words, they still demonstrate God’s thoughts. The words are written in such a way that you can tell they’re expressing approval.

      2. Intimacy in Marriage Is for Enjoyment as Much as Procreation
      Not sure we want to use Song of Solomon as an example of a healthy sexual relationship. The two main characters in that set of poems are living in disobedience to God. They worship each other instead of God (Exodus 20:3). The groom has multiple wives and sexual partners (ch 6, v8-9) when kings of Israel were not permitted to do so (Deut. 17:17).

      We err if we made the entire book prescriptive, but we would equally err if we made the entire book descriptive. Yes, there’s conflict between the two people, but that doesn’t mean the book should be written off as though it doesn’t contain application.

      Furthermore, the couple is not fulfilling God’s command to procreate (Gen. 1:28).

      Exactly! That’s why I quoted this book to support that intimacy is for more than just procreation.

      These poems are sexual fantasy from a man who engaged in much sexual experimentation (see Eccl. 2).

      That could be true, but God has it in His Word for us for what reason? Simply to share the exploits of this man? No. There’s application for couples.

      3. Intimacy in Marriage Is Commanded
      You cannot just read 1 Corinthians 7:1b–3. You have to read it in context with the previous chapter and read at least to verse 7, if not the entire chapter. Paul is very clear in verse 6 that this is not a command.

      David, you misunderstood verse 6. Paul isn’t referring to sex in that verse. He’s referring to abstinence. So in other words, he said, “I’m not commanding you to abstain.” You can see that if you read it in context. Paul did command them to render the intimacy due to spouses (1 Corinthians 7:3).

      Sex is a concession for new believers who lack self-control in the area of sexual immorality.

      I’m sorry David, but again you misinterpreted the verse. Paul’s concession was that couples can abstain…not a concession that they don’t have to render intimacy.

      Given Paul’s admonishment to Christians in Thessalonica to pray unceasingly and his letter to Christians in Galatia explaining the fruits of the Spirit, it would seem odd for him to command sex.

      Regardless of whether it seems odd or not to you (and by the way it makes logical sense to me), it’s what he commanded of married people. As much as the devil wants to promote sex outside of marriage, he equally wants to forbid it in marriage.

      The goal is self-control and a consistent attitude of prayer.
      When it comes to intimacy, our goal is to know and love our spouse, just as Christ loved the Church. If sex does not meet your spouse’s physical, emotional or spiritual needs, this might mean actually giving up any sexual activity for the sake of your spouse.

      I would strongly disagree with this. Paul actually warned against what you’re saying: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” Withholding from spouses subjects them to unnecessary temptation. Your approach of giving it up completely goes beyond even what Paul warned against to an extreme that would undoubtedly have terrible consequences. “Knowing and loving your spouse” as you said means obeying Paul’s words and rendering the affection that’s due.

      We need to be careful about placing more burdens on Christian couples, especially when they are unnecessary and unrealistic.

      I completely agree and withholding from a spouse does exactly what you’re warning against: placing more burdens on those being forced to abstain because of a selfish spouse.

  9. So you lean towards satisfying the higher drive spouse? That depends on whether their desire is reasonable or not. If a spouse wanting sex more times than the other spouse is able to give, then it might ruin what they already have. A lower drive spouse who is giving all they can, will often feel like they are never enough.

    1. Hello Fiona,
      I don’t know if I would say that I lean toward satisfying the higher drive spouse. I would say that I lean toward satisfying the spouse who desires sexual intimacy at the time, regardless of whether this is the higher or lower drive spouse. I think 1 Corinthians 7 is pretty clear that to not satisfy the person who desires intimacy is to subject them to greater temptation.

      At the same time, the balance, is that the person who desires sexual intimacy should take into account how the other person is feeling. They should be considerate and exhibit self-control and self-denial if it is in the other person’s best interest.

      Overall, the main desire of both spouses should be to satisfy the other. In a relationship for this is the case. You will have two blessed individuals.

      I talked about this more in this post, A Biblical View of Intimacy and Abstinence.

  10. As I was listening to a message by Paul Washer last night, God just really impressed upon my heart, that marriage isn’t about ME and my husband meeting all my needs…marriage is all about Him and growing us in sanctification. If our marriage was so easy, struggle and hurt free, we’d miss out on growing more dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ…

    So dear lady, cry out to God to grant you forgiveness and mercy to your husband. WE have done far worse to Christ, yet He extended much grace and mercy to us ❤ Seek godly council (as it seems you are) and rejoice that God is Sovereign and He works all things for His purpose and glory…. Your forgiveness will be a huge testimony of God’s glory. The world cares more about their own rights (like they’d justify you leaving him) but children of God die to self and even suffer for God’s glory. Your forgiveness to your husband is God’s grace to him as well…

    Our chief end is to GLORIFY God in everything ❤

    1. Hi Angie,
      Thank you for reading and providing these thoughts. You’re right, and I hope others read what you wrote. If we’d all approach marriage this way – that it’s for our holiness versus our happiness – we wouldn’t see so many divorces, and even so many disappointed people. Expectations shape experiences. If people approached their weddings knowing that it’s about sacrifice and commitment, as much joy and blessing, that expectation could better shape their relationships when married.

      Your counsel is strong, but right. I hope she (and others) read it. We need to forgive, because we have been forgiven.

  11. Good article and sound advice. I would also counsel the wife that this is not happening because she is not attractive or unlovable. When pornography is discovered often this will cause women to spiral into a swirling sea of insecurity which can cause even more issues. When this has been discovered we feel like we need to know what they have seen and we seek out to look at what they see. I would encourage against that as we should not seek out images that would hurt us. Pray for your spouse, support them in treatment, talk together about ways to place spyware on devices and when there is a setback be open to talking and praying about it even though it will hurt each time.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Good thoughts. I hope The Hurting Wife (and others) read what you wrote. I think your words complement very well what Stacy said that wives shouldn’t blame themselves.

      It never occurred to me that a woman would want to know what her husband saw, and as a result, look it up themselves. I agree with you that pray for repentance would definitely be the better approach, recommend treatment, counseling, implement protective software, etc.

  12. This is a must read! I have this problem myself and God has recently convicted me. I’m praying that this article will shine some light for others to see that watching porn is not ok.
    I revealed to my wife in general conversation that I had been looking at porn on a regular basis, both before and after we were married, and this devastated her. This is on top of other problems we already had.
    I didn’t realize the effect this had on us. We reached out to a few people and discussed how to work through it. That was both helpful and disastrous because quite a few people took my side and expressed to Krista that watching porn was not a problem and I saw how much more this devastated her.
    As of now, I have not had any interest in looking at it but I do know that it is very possible one day that I could. I also realize that I need help, both for myself and to help Krista Mercille work through the pain that I caused. I want her to know that she can trust me again.

    1. Bryan,
      First, thank you for reading and commenting.

      Second, on behalf of anyone who reads the post and (hopefully) sees your comment, I also want to thank you for your humility and transparency.

      Third, it’s terrible that you received counsel that basically encouraged you in your sin. Thank God you had the integrity to not use it as an excuse. I’m sure that must’ve been an encouragement to Krista. I’m glad God’s Word is your authority, and not these foolish “friends.”

  13. How is a wide supposed to get over her husband’s porn use? I caught my husband. He spent the last couple of years watching porn on his work phone and computer. He is now in recovery for addiction, but since he was lying and I had to search and find out what was going on I know everything he watched and every vulgar search term he used. It just makes me feel dirty and ashamed to be a woman. Now that I know how he sees women and uses them for his own gratification I just have no desire to stay with him. So how is a wife supposed to heal from all this?

    1. Hello Hurt Wife,
      First, let me say I am truly sorry about what your husband has done, and the pain it has caused you.

      You asked:

      So how is a wife supposed to heal from all this?

      I’ll give you five recommendations…

      First, you said he’s in recovery. This 1. shows he wants to change, and 2. is commendable. Many men (sadly) wouldn’t take this step.

      Second, although you haven’t committed the same sins as your husband, and haven’t hurt him in the same way(s) he hurt you, you have still sinned and hurt him in different ways throughout your marriage. To be clear, this is the case with every husband and wife, and is not meant to make you feel criticized. I mention this, because thinking about your own sins and failures should humble you and make forgiving your husband easier.

      Third, you can think about everything God has forgiven you for, and I would recommend reading the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. I struggle with forgiveness and bitterness. Whenever I read that parable it convicts me and causes me to want to be forgiving.

      Fourth, remember the covenant you entered on your wedding day. You didn’t just enter it with your husband. You also entered it with God. He expects you to keep it, and will give you the grace to do so.

      Fifth, you said:

      I just have no desire to stay with him.

      I believe you, and I’m sure there are many challenges associated with staying him. BUT the gospel is powerful enough to heal any marriage and give you greater love and affection than you’ve ever had for your husband.

    2. I might add that in no way is her husbands decision her fault- she can own her own sinfulness but in no way is she responsible for his actions. That comes from his own sinful heart. So yes, she needs to reflect on ways she could grow but that never excuses the choices her husband made and never justifies his sin!

      1. Stacy,
        Good thoughts, thanks for sharing. I agree. I can imagine that many women would be mad at their husbands, but they might also start wondering if they did something wrong. This would be unfortunate, making a hurting woman feel even worse.

      2. Stacy. If you leave illegal drugs on a counter that you have been taking and your son decides to try them are you partially at fault?

        If you refuse to have sex with your husband for a year. And he starts to watch porn and masterbate for sexual fulfillment are you partial at fault. There is consequences for sin on all sides. He is definitely sinning but so are you. This is the situation of so many couples I know. I feel for both the man and the women. Many women a couple years after having children just decide that sex is not important and they just don’t want it any more. I have heard women say I really only feel like having sex once a month or not at all. Then they tell there husbands, I just don’t need it so neither should you. A year later after no intimacy what should he do. The woman’s sin in this case does have consequences and can cause others to sin. If the man “acts out” it is his sin fully and the spouse has also sinned

        1. Scott,
          I really appreciate this response. Very well said. We can’t cause other people to sin, but we must recognize the potential to make temptation greater for people or to contribute to people sin. This is one of the main points in these verses in first Corinthians 7 that our behavior can subject our spouse to greater temptation or help alleviate that temptation.

  14. How to pray for my man who is so flirtatious & not loyal in marital relationship since from marriage. It is extremely hard to live in this life with unfaithful spouse? Whenever asked,he says plenty of lies. Am extremely depressed.kindly help me in this.

    1. Hi Beula,
      First, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Second, I’m very sorry to hear about the way you’re saying your husband is acting. Is your husband a Christian? It’s hard to imagine a Christian man acting this way. If he’s not a Christian, the first thing you need to do is pray for his salvation. If he is a Christian, pray the Holy Spirit greatly convicts about his behavior. Also, while it might be very hard to do this, considering the way he’s acting, I would encourage you to respect him and pursue his affections. It will convict him to mistreat such a wonderful, godly wife. Plus, you’ll be allowing the Lord to work through your obedience, versus you responding angrily and returning evil for evil.

    2. I highly recommend the book “Love Must Be Tough” by James Dobson. God doesn’t excuse away our sin or look the other way. That is not loving, nor should we look the other way and continue to excuse a spouses sinful behavior. Sometimes the loving thing to do is take a stand- while still letting the person know YOU are committed to the covenant. Boundaries can be set and established in a situation like this and often are the catalyst for real change. In the end it is the Holy Spirit who has to bring your husband to conviction but that may have to start with you calling the sin what it is.

      1. Stacy,
        Thanks for giving Beula some counsel. You might elaborate to her what you mean by, “taking a stand.” I was wondering that. I’m guessing you mean letting the person know their actions are sinful? I was also wondering what the boundaries might look like that you’re recommending?

        Beula, here’s the book Stacy’s recommending, Love Must Be Tough, and it’s 46% off on Amazon!

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