A while ago I got a comment saying “I’d like to see some posts that actually help a lot of us out here that have [near sexless] lives like this. You always seem to walk the wishy-washy middle ground.”
My usual answer to this, or any other “my wife won’t ____” or “my wife won’t stop ____ ” is to point out I am addressing husbands here, not wives. I have the chance to directly influence the men who read me, but at best only an indirect chance to influence your wives. To me this is more of a hard reality than a co-out. Still, the problem is real and all to common. So…
Ultimately I think a lack of sex is about selfishness, the question is who’s selfishness. There are some guys who are such lousy excuses for husbands it’s hard to blame their wife for neither desiring nor being willing to have regular sex. However, I think this is rare, and such men don’t read a blog about being a “generous husband”. Some men are paying for their past – for neglect or abuse or selfishness in days gone by. This is maybe more common, but still not a big cause of no/low sex marriages. There are certainly plenty of us who could do better at various things – be move loving, more giving, more selfless, more romantic, better around the house, and all the other things used to
explain justify a wife’s lack of sex. However, many men who make huge strides in these areas see little or no change in their sex lives. It’s not uncommon to make massive changes and see one’s wife change in all kinds of ways, but not sexually.
In other words, the vast majority of the time, low or no sex is a result of selfishness on the part of the spouse who is saying no. (I say “the spouse” rather than “the wife” 15% or more of wives want more than their husband.)
I can hear women who say often say screaming about how dare I blame them! Don’t I know how selfish their husband is, how he wants way too much sex, how he can never be satisfied? “Too much” generally means “more than I want” – including when she wants no sex at all. A common line is a loving spouse would not want more sex than his wife wants. While this may sound good on the surface, is does not hold up logically, is the opposite of what the Bible says, and shows a lack of understanding of love.
Let’s start with what sex is. Sex is not just a way of making babies, and it’s not just something fun to do, like going bowling! Sex is a biological function, and it creates a desire – a desire that does not go away if we ignore it. Even more importantly, sex is fundamental to building a solid marriage – sex is an important part of the glue that holds a marriage together. Low sex couples have more problems and less connection, and couples with sexual problems are more likely to end up divorced1 or “room-mates” than couples who have more sex. Good, regular, sex has also been repeatedly linked to longer life and better health in well done studies. Bottom line, sex is good for us, and good for our marriages, which means limiting sex is bad for marriages.
“So what?” she might say, “Why should I do it when I don’t want to?” Aside from the benefits she is cheating both of you out of, is refusal biblical wrong? Usually folks point to 1 Cor 7:5 on this. I’ve written on this with Lori here, but I’d like to look at this in a different way. The last couple of days I’ve talked about being a generous spouse, which I don’t see it as an option for Christians or anyone who really loves their spouse. To me, anything less than generous is a sign of selfishness. This is true for all aspects of marriage – including sex!
So, I don’t see the person who wants “more sex” as selfish, I see the one saying no as selfish. The wife (or husband) who says no to sex is refusing the person they claim to love something only they can provide. The spouse who limits sex is putting herself (or himself) ahead of their spouse. That is not love, it’s selfishness. It is not about “self control”, it’s about control and manipulation.
Will telling your wife all this cause her to change? Sadly I doubt it. Society says no one should have sex unless they desire it – justifying saying no for any reason. Much of the church has gone along with this, abandoning Jesus’ message of loving and giving. A woman who chooses to have sex far less often than her husband wants has cover in society, and often in church. Most of us are not open to seeing our selfishness when we have cover. Still, I know a few women who have heard the truth for the truth, and have made changes in this area. Usually these changes are initially a force of will thing. Often this is later rewarded with a growing enjoyment of, and desire for sex.
All the necessary caveats: I will most certainly hear from a few women in horrible situations. She is working 60 hours a week, and he wants sex twice a day. She has pain with sex, and he doesn’t care. She gave birth a month ago and he only cares about himself. She is trying to deal with the fall out of being sexually abused, and he thinks a couple of months should have been enough time to heal. He wants sex when he gets home from the strip club. He yells at her constantly, then expects her to be all loving and sexual. He only cares about himself – when he climaxes, sex is over. And so on, and so forth. Yes, there are guys out there who are unbelievably selfish, abusive, rude and otherwise just wrong. I am NOT talking about or to women in such situations. I am talking about decent but imperfect men who find sex two or three times a week (or less) to be far less than enough.
References & Further Reading:
1 Sexual frequency or frequency mismatch and divorce:
SEX IN AMERICA: CONSERVATIVE ATTITUDES PREVAIL
Yeh, Lorenz, Wickrama, Conger, & Elder 2006; Edwards & Booth, 1994; Oggins, Leber, & Veroff, 1993; Veroff, Douvan, & Hatchett, 1995; White and Keith, 1990
How Men Really Think about Sex – An outstanding article by a female counsellor. If anything will help her see the light, it’s this!
Sexual Stewardship – An article by Paul & Lori Byerly about sexual responsibility to one’s spouse.