“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.” [1 Cor 7:3 KJV]
A fellow wrote to me wanting to know what I thought was included in “Due benevolence”.
The ESV is no real help – “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.” The Message goes a bit further with “The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband.” The Greek word rendered as “due” or “rights” is about a debt, and means that which belongs to someone. If you’ve borrowed money from me, the money is mine, not yours. You are expected to give me back the money, it’s due to me because it is mine. This means sex is not a gift, your sexuality belongs to your spouse, and her sexuality belongs to you. It is due.
Okay, but, what is included in what our wife owes us sexually? If she refuses to wear lingerie, is she not giving us our due benevolence? If she’ll have intercourse every day and twice on Sunday, but won’t perform oral sex, is she in the wrong? What if she won’t do any position other than one, or refuses to have sex with the lights on? Do those put her outside what Paul says we must do?
My feeling is any couple arguing over such points has already missed what God intends for them, both sexually and as a couple. Debates over certain acts are rooted in each person putting what they want ahead of what their spouse wants. There’s no compromise that will fix such problems, no scheduled frequency of certain sex acts that will make both feel good about their sex life.
This brings me to the title of this post – Finding a sex life you both enjoy. What if your wife were willing to give you everything you wanted sexually? However, she wouldn’t be doing it because it was what she wanted to do, but because she had decided to give up her sexual desires to serve your sexual desires. Maybe she got manipulated into it, or maybe she has such a low self-esteem she feels she should, or maybe she’s just so tired of fighting about sex she’s willing to do anything to make the fighting stop. I doubt anyone reading here is selfish enough to say they’d like this arrangement, but you might be more about her doing what you want than about how she feels about doing those things. Sex tends to bring out selfishness, and I think we often have a don’t ask, don’t tell approach when we should know our wife is doing something she doesn’t want to do. We justify it as being what she owes us, and ignore the clear signs it’s not sex she enjoys.
The last part of The Message version of 1 Cor 7:3 is great for men – she should satisfy us. However, we are also supposed to satisfy her, and there’s that pesky “mutuality” word at the start of the verse. So, if we get her to do something she really doesn’t want to do, we’ve failed to live up to what God wants. By the same token, if we don’t get most of what we desire, we are not living up to what God wants. The Biblical way is to focus on giving your wife what she wants, and trust God will move on her to do the same for you.
I know, I know, your wife doesn’t want anything sexual, or she thinks twice a month missionary after hand only foreplay is the perfect sex life. I understand why that’s distressing. I understand why it’s frustrating mentally, emotionally and between the legs. I really do get it. But getting it does not change the godly way of getting from where you are to what He wants you to have. I’m convinced you’ll never be sexually satisfied if you follow any other path. You may get more, you might get occasional begrudging oral sex, you might get her to wear something that makes her feel stupid, but you won’t end up with the sex life you really want, the one that will really satisfy you. What’s more, any other path will take you farther from what will satisfy you.
I’ll pontificate more on this next Saturday. Take some time to think about it, and to tell me how whacked I am in the comments.