When Lori and I were travelling by RV we stayed in a number of state parks. We quickly realised how much more we enjoyed being among the trees or close to a lake than being in a more developed RV park. (The new banner image for the blog comes from one of our favourite such places, between Raleigh and Durham North Carolina.) This made us aware of our need for “blue and green”.
I have since read several articles talking about the positive effects of getting out into nature. It’s good for your mental and physical health, and when you do it with your wife it’s good for your marriage too.
Nature is calling, don’t put it on hold!
Today I want to do some more foundation work on looking at the Bible to discern how God intended us to live our marriages.
When we study the Bible it’s important to know the audience to whom things were written. One huge factor is old testament (or covenant) versus new. While God didn’t change, our relationship with Him did change. What’s more, many of the rules that were imposed on the Jews of old don’t apply to us. I can freely eat shrimp, pet a dog, shave my beard, or mow the lawn on Saturday (the Sabbath) whereas those under the old covenant were forbidden from doing any of those things.
We are told that marriage is an example of God’s relationship with us. If our relationship with God changed because of what Jesus did, does that mean there are changes in how husbands and wives are supposed to relate? If the example changed, it seems likely what was based on the example might also change. I’m not saying it proves anything, but it should make us consider the possibility.
Did any of God’s rules or expectations for marriage change when Jesus came? Absolutely. Jesus said that divorce for any reason was never God’s will, that He only allowed it because of the hardness of men’s hearts. The “new” rule is that divorce followed by remarriage is only valid when done because of sexual sin. Beyond that, Jesus made sexual sin a much bigger category when He talked about lusting for a woman we see as adultery of the heart.
I offer these examples as proof that we can’t blindly apply what the OT says about marriage to our lives. If something appears in the old testament but not the new that doesn’t mean it’s no longer valid, but it does mean we need to do some digging.
Another issue is the fact that the Bible often narrates a story without making any comment on what happens. We are told, for example, that Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had sex with him so they could get pregnant. Nowhere are we told what they did was wrong. Some of what we read about how men treated their wives in the OT may be the same thing, the narration of something without pointing out it’s wrong.
Then there is the reality that culture is a major factor. Certain things in the Bible were done for cultural reasons rather than because God said they were to be done. In some cases, these were not contrary to God’s will, so there was no problem. But that does not make them things God commanded. Other things might have been allowed by God because of the hardness of heart issue, but they were not His will.
Culture can also result in a rule that is necessary and good in one place and time, but not in another. When the Bible was written, and especially during the time of the Old Testament, women had it hard. Without a father or husband to care for and protect her a woman’s only real options for making money were begging and prostitution. What’s more, a woman without a father or husband was looked down on. She was also at much greater risk of being taken advantage of or raped. None of this was God’s will, it’s just the reality of being female in those times. The Bible actually provides far more protection and rights for women than most contemporary non-Jewish women had.
None of this is to say we can just ignore what the Bible says because we don’t live in the same time. But ignoring how culture coloured what was written is not wise either. Understanding the times and the audience can really help. It also helps to see who said something in the Bible and if they claimed to be speaking God’s truth. At least once Paul made it clear he was giving his opinion, rather than a command from the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:12 & 25). Certainly Paul’s “judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy” is valuable, but it might be something that was valid then but is not now.
One last thing for today. Much of what Paul wrote was in answer to questions he had been asked. Sometimes he gave a reminder of the question asked (1 Cor 7:1 for example) and other times he does not. This is a lot like seeing one side of a text conversation, and it makes it easy to misunderstand. Imagine, for example, that a friend sent me a text asking if I felt it was a good idea for his daughter to go to the prom with a fellow who seems rather questionable for a number of reasons who drove a motorcycle. If I texted back “Don’t let her go to any dance with mister motorcycle,” that answer out of context could be taken as me saying no one should ever go to a dance with a guy who owns a motorcycle. I think this is the reason for some of the confusion over verses that seem to say conflicting things or seem to say something other than what the Bible as a whole says. (Last Sunday I gave the Matthew 25:31-46 example of how a passage taken out of context can be used say something contrary to the Word of God.)
Of course, none of this is to be used to try to negate a verse that we don’t like. The goal is to use the tools to find what the Bible says and then live that. What makes that difficult is we all have beliefs that are set in stone, and we are usually blind to things that bring those beliefs into question. This is especially true of human doctrines with many years of history behind them.
All of this is going to come into play as we move forward the next few weeks. I wanted to get it out there before it comes up. You are of course free to disagree with me, but most of this is standard exegesis and hermeneutics. The arguments come from how those tools are applied to scripture!
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This is a hot button but necessary follow up to last Saturday’s Constraint and Dedication in the Bedroom post. In that post, I talked about not being grumpy over a lack of sex. If you ask and she says no, don’t try to punish her. I said doing that might get you sex, but not the kind of sex you want, and in the long run, it will make her less interested in sex.
So what do you do if you want or need sex and your wife is unwilling? You hit the shower.
Yes, gentlemen, I’m suggesting you take matters into your own hands.
I realise some think all masturbation is sinful. I won’t go into that here as I’ve done it before. Suffice it to say I am convinced masturbation is not inherently sinful. The point I want to make here is masturbation is a far less enjoyable but valid way of dealing with your sex drive when your wife can’t or won’t. Some will say it’s selfish. My reply to that is that running around horny is a bad plan.
In part, this is about keeping temptation in check. But it’s also about doing something that makes it easier for you to be loving and understanding with your wife when she is leaving you hard up. If masturbating just makes you madder, then it’s not helping. But if you work at it you should be able to get to where you can take care of your body without messing up your mind.
I’ve been down this road. When we were having a lot of sexual problems Lori let me know she was okay with me taking care of myself. I did it on occasion, but not nearly as much as I should have. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt doing it myself was letting her off the hook. I thought walking around horny 24/7 would pressure her to have sex with me more often. Looking back I realise this was not the case. In fact, being so horny all the time made it more difficult for her to be sexual with me. If I had been more willing to take care of myself in the shower I’d have felt better, she’d have felt better, and our sexual problems likely would have been resolved faster.
The one caveat in all of this is your wife should probably know you are masturbating. I say probably because if she sees masturbation as the ultimate sin she’s not ready to hear that. However, if she can be halfway reasonable about it I suggest you let her know the lack of sex is causing you real problems and you feel a need to sometimes give yourself physical release in the shower. Make it clear you would much rather be having sex with her, and let her know your thoughts while you do it will be of her.
Telling her might be seen as trying to push her to have more sex. Aside from the honesty issue, sharing this information with her may help her understand why it’s important for her to try to have more sex. You’re letting her know she has the right of first refusal, but the need is such that you shouldn’t go without release for long periods. Telling her also lets her know you will deal with the need in a way that doesn’t involve porn or another woman.
Finally, why the shower? It’s easy, private, and clean. It also removes the risk of porn being part of the equation.
Let’s talk about “non-sexual touch”.
Clearly, the sexuality of touch is in the mind of the beholder. What if your wife touches you in a way that she sees as non-sexual, and it gets you turned on? Then for you it’s sexual, for her it’s not; and you are both right. Likewise, you can touch her in a way that is sexual for you, but not sexual for her. You can touch her in a way that leaves you aroused, but it can still be non-sexual for her, if you don’t make a point of letting her know how much it turns you on. That’s the key – let it be non-sexual for her by not putting your arousal out there for her.
Many wives need more non-sexual touch. They need touch that doesn’t carry any hint of sexual desire. They need touch with no sexual strings attached. They need to feel that they are loved for more than sex, and that their guy wants to touch them for something more than to satisfy his sexual desires. If a woman needs this, you can’t convince her with words that you feel this way. Only your actions will prove it, and only repeating those actions over and over will result in her really believing it.
Is suppressing your sexual urges, and even hiding your arousal, dishonest? I see it as making a choice; a choice to sometimes set aside your sexual needs so you can give her what she needs. Let it be non-sexual for her when she needs it to be.
[This post first appeared June 11, 2010.]
I recently answered this question on Quora:
“Do you feel used or cheated if your girlfriend or wife only has sex when she’s in the mood (which is not as often as you’d like to have sex)?“
It seems to me this is, or should be, a much more general question. So I answered it in a more general way:
Would I feel cheated if my wife only did what she wants and never did anything for me just because she loves me? Of course I would! That’s not love; it’s one person using another for their own needs without giving back.
Love is all about caring for someone else. It means what is important to them is important to you. It means sometimes sacrificing to give them what they want, need, or enjoy. Sometimes it means going out when you want to stay home, or it might mean staying home when you want to go out. It means going to a movie or a restaurant that wouldn’t be your first (or second, or third) choice. It means having a conversation when you don’t want to. It means massaging their sore shoulders when you’re dead tired. And sometimes it means having sex, as enthusiastically as you can, even when you have no interest in sex.
And here’s the big thing: real love sets priorities based on the feelings, thoughts, and needs of the person they love. So if sex, or anything else, is really important to your spouse, then you make a point of doing that thing regularly.
If both spouses are halfway good at applying this kind of love the couple will have a great relationship. If either fails at this, the relationship will be far less than it could be.
What about you? Is there anywhere you’re failing to give your wife what she wants because you don’t care about that thing?
We have a new puppy on the property who is given to chasing her tail. I thought of this the other day when I read something about chasing happiness.
The author started by saying happiness should be our number one priority. Reading on I thought he was making a great tongue in cheek case for why chasing happiness is doomed to fail, but it slowly became evident he was dead serious. Happiness is this man’s highest value and goal, and he will get rid of anyone or anything that gets in the way of his pursuit of happiness. What I found really scary is this guy is a life coach of some sort.
I like to be happy, and I want my wife to be happy. But happiness as a primary goal is like chasing your tail. Real happiness comes from living a life that is right with God. Sometimes that means doing things that aren’t fun. Sometimes it means lovingly putting up with your wife when she’s not being as kind or generous as she should be. Sometimes it means saying or doing things you don’t want to say or do. Sometimes it means delaying gratification now so life is better in the long run.
In a society that increasingly worships happiness, doing what God says can be difficult. But it’s right, and in the long run, it results in a better and happier life.
My wife is nearly perfect…FOR ME. And she feels the same way about me (for some reason that escapes me). But this is very specific to who we are. Some women would think me to be a horrible husband, and some men wouldn’t feel about my wife as I do.
Part of this “good fit” is because we talked and considered if we would be a good fit before we got married. Another part, I’d say a bigger part after 33 years, is that we’ve grown together and grown in much the same way. To some degree living together does that, but we’ve also made it a very intentional thing. There are certain things I don’t pursue as much as I would on my own because Lori’s not into them. There are other things I pursue more than I would on my own because Lori is very much into them. This is not about me denying myself of something I really want or forcing myself to do things I hate; it’s about focusing more or less on things I am okay to start with. It’s shifting myself to be a better match for her. Because Lori does the same for me (and even more so I think) we have developed a great deal of commonly enjoyed activities and preferences.
How do you bend to be more what your wife would like? Do you do that enough? Do you do it too much, perhaps because she does it too little?