Most couples struggle with control issues in their sex lives. For some couples it’s obvious, while for others it’s hidden below the surface. It happens on a variety of levels, and plays into our fears, our need to feel loved, and our general desire to be in control.
Because sex is such a strong force, our desire to be in control sexually is strong, and not being in control sexually may be more troubling than not being in control in many other areas. The fact that sex affects both our minds and our bodies, as well as our sense of well being, how we feel about our marriage, and even our spirituality, makes this issue huge.
It’s understandable that we would all want to have control over our sexuality; to not do anything we don’t want to do, and to be able to do what we want to do when we want to do it. Even in very loving marriages with plenty of giving on the part of both spouses and mutually strong sex drives, there are times when one wants sex and the other does not. In less ideal marriages, sexual control issues are far more common.
The spouse who says no to sex is in control. Alternatively, the spouse who pushes or manipulates to get sex is in control. Understand both these realities, and think about how often they happen in your marriage. With the exception of the times when you both want it, there is a potential struggle for control each time one of you desires sex. Usually the control goes to the one who says no, as we understand how wrong and destructive it is to force someone to have sex (be it physical, mental, or emotional force). What gets played down, if not ignored, is that it’s wrong and harmful for one spouse to repeatedly control the other sexually by saying no over and over. The one saying no may say they are not trying to be in control, but the reality is they are.
Am I saying we should have sex when we don’t feel like it? What I am suggesting is that giving and sacrificing are necessary parts of a good marriage, and there is no reason, scriptural or logical, that allows us to exclude sexuality from that principal. We should be ready to stretch ourselves to give to our spouses, to meet not just their needs, but go beyond the “minimum required”. This is how love acts, and it does this in all areas; especially in the areas that are most importation to one’s spouse. Those who regularly deny or limit what they give in any area are selfish. Those who regularly deny or limit what they give in areas of great importance to their spouse are cruel.
Yes, I just said that often saying no to sex is selfish, cruel, and unloving. Please know that I am not just saying this to women; I am also saying this to the men out there who say no to their brides – a growing problem. I don’t care why you say no, you are wrong, selfish, cruel, and unloving. God did not give you the right to control her sexual desire; God actually gave you the responsibility to take care of those desires. There is no excuse for failing to care for her sexual desires over the long haul: none.
Okay, the necessary exceptions, and things that are not exceptions:
- I am not talking about saying no for understandable reasons like illness, pain or exhaustion.
- I am not talking about occasionally not feeling like it.
- I am talking about saying no at least half the time (although for most couples the yes ratio should be far higher than half).
- I do understand that some have issues from their past that makes sex scary, and I am not suggesting women in that situation should just say yes and suffer. However, women in that situation need to make dealing with the past an absolute top priority. Failure to deal with the past so one can do what is right is not an excuse for continuing to do what is wrong. In such a case, the “no” may not be unloving and selfish, but not dealing with the issue is unloving and selfish.
- I also understand that relationship issues, and things like adultery or porn use, can make sex difficult or undesirable. Again, working on the issue must be a top priority. Going months saying no to sex because of things you won’t deal with is not acceptable!
- A person’s sexual limitations (erectile problems, orgasm difficulty, premature ejaculation, or lack of desire) don’t get them off the hook. There are ways to make sex work regardless of these and other issues.
- Saying “He (or she) is over sexed/wants too much/has a sex addition” does not get you off the hook. If you are having sex four or five times a week EVERY WEEK and your spouse is complaining about not having enough, then they are probably being unreasonable. Otherwise, you are wrong regardless of what they may or may not need to deal with.
- Saying “He (or she) would have sex every day if I let him (her)” means nothing. The vast majority of the people who say this don’t know that since they have never had sex even close to every day. I hear this from people who have sex with their spouse a couple of times a month! Even if s/he would like to have sex daily, so what? That desire is not sinful, and it’s not an indication of some problem. If a person can’t shut up about sex even in the worst situations, especially if they get plenty, then there is a problem. If someone is starving, thinking about food all the time is not a problem, it’s normal!
- That your spouse if failing you in some other area, or areas, of your marriage does not justify you frequently saying no to sex. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and all you are doing is adding your wrong to his or her wrong. On the other hand, by doing what is right and giving where they feel the need, you encourage them to give to you where you have needs. Withholding is usually repaid with withholding, while giving tends to be repaid by giving.
So, should you share this with your wife or husband who is controlling you sexually by saying no far too often? I don’t know. It’s not like they will read this and apologise profusely while removing their clothes as fast as possible. On one level they probably know what they are doing is wrong. They have built a wall of excuses and rationalizations that keep them from having to deal with the fact that they are not being loving. They blame you, the victim, to make them feel okay about being selfish and cruel. Reading what I have written here will only make a refusing spouse feel angry and defensive. However, there is a chance they have not so hardened their heart that they are immune these words. There is a chance that doing what is right, doing what is loving, is still important to some part of them. If that is true, then these words that sting will make a difference.
If you are considering giving this to your spouse, I pray the Lord will give you wisdom and the proper timing.
If your spouse has given you this to read, I pray you will take it to God and let Him show you what is true, and what you should be doing. If your spouse has taken the risk to share this with you, it means this issue is a major problem for them. Ignoring that problem won’t make it go away, but it will cause even greater harm to your marriage.