Control and sex

Sexless couple © Wernerheiber |

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.

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9 Comments on “Control and sex

  1. This has got to be your best post ever on this subject. The one thing I would comment on is absolutely inconsequential compared to the overall post. Every thought I have as a way to compliment you comes up short. I really don’t know how to commend you enough for what you are trying to do and what you are in fact doing.

  2. This is great to hear because my husband can’t seem to understand how deeply he hurts me when he gives me the cold shoulder, groans, and ignores my caresses or advances when I want him. He is happy that I “like sex so much”, and we enjoy frequent sex. But he doesn’t seem to want me to come on to him or initiate sex or tell him what I’d like for him to do. He gets quiet and says “OK. I know. “But he doesn’t know and doesn’t seem to care. He’ll just come real quick and say “Look at what you do to me…I can’t help it…you’re so good.” I just throb and hide my pain. It hurts so deeply. I never stop wanting him and trying. I just wish he’d let me dance for him and slow down and watch me, enjoy me, linger and let me start things and be receiving of me like I am of him. I am always happy for his flirting, foreplay, and talking sexy in my ear. I just feel so rejected when I try and show him I want him, and he is cold at times for no apparent reason. I am sharing this article with him prayerfully. God bless you for all that you are doing to help marriages. The articles are great!! I agree with you on everything so far.

  3. My wife and I are on the verge of divorce over this issue. Yes, she has had medical problems in the past, a hysterectomy in 92, breast cancer in 04 and 07 that resulted in both breasts being removed, being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in ’00 that have caused part of her problems. She says that she is impotent however I disagree with her. She refuses to have anything to do with sex in any form whatsoever, i.e handjobs or anything else. That is not impotence. She just does not want sex. She says she doesn’t want sex with anyone. She has even gone so far as to tell me that if I want sex to get it outside the marriage and that I have her permission. She doesn’t realize how much she has hurt me with all of this. She is also very controlling. She is in Germany at the present time, and has been since July 1, with her daughter and grand daughter while the son in law is deployed with the Army. She is due to return home on Dec. 1 and I am to the point that I want a divorce when she returns. She lied to me about the trip, that her daughter was going to reimburse her for 1/2 the cost of the plane ticket and that her daughter was going to pay for everything while she was over there. Her daughter has paid nothing toward anything and the wife has been spending money for whatever she wants and leaving me to struggle with the bills here at home. I have not been able to do anything since she has been gone because I don’t have the money after she gets through. I have only spent money on my food for my lunch to take to work everyday and gas. She spends the money as a control tool to make sure that I don’t have any money left to do anything. When I say do anything I’m talking about a leisure activity like golf, nothing else. Giving this post to her would do nothing to change her mind. She sees a therapist who I believe has talked her into this and to whom she puts me down all the time. I see a therapist in the same office and told him a few weeks ago that I would love for her therapist to sit in on one of our sessions so she could see that I am not the person she is describing to her.
    I’m sorry for going on for so long but I am so frustrated and I have no one to talk to here. My stepson, daughter in law and grandson live here but I can’t talk to them. I talk to my therapist about once every 3 weeks. In the meantime, I have no one to talk to to relieve my frustration and it keeps building up. Again, I’m sorry for going on like this but this post hit the nail on the head with me. Thanks for listening.

  4. @Mike – I am deeply sorry for what you are going through. I wish I had some magic words, but sadly no such words exist. It sounds like your wife has exercised her free will, and left you with no good choice. Praying for you to have wisdom and strength.

  5. Thank you Paul. I know there are no magic words or anything that would make things better. She thinks that I am just supposed to accept things and go on but I can’t. Thank you for your prayers. I do enjoy your posts on here and the wisdom you share for others. Have a great day.

  6. Well, it seems like a miracle is about to happen. My wife called me from Germany on Sunday morning no less and told me she wants to try to work things out. I was against it at first because I wasn’t sure about something. There is a guy over there who is from Britain and he is a contractor for the Army. He is friends with the son in law and step daughter. He was there the last time my wife was over there in 09 for 4 months. I don’t think him and my wife did anything then but I’m not totally sure. She says no. He was in Iraq until about 2 weeks ago and now he is back in Germany. My wife is on FB and so is he. I have seen posts, nothing incriminating, but I was curious. Some things I found made me question what was going on if anything. In my mind, I was convinced that they had something going even without any kind of proof. That was wrong of me. When I talked to the wife on Sunday morning she assured me that there is nothing going on with them and I was able to get it out of my mind. She wants me to help her work through her problem with sex and for us to work through other issues we have. The bottom line is that we are going to try and work through our problems and she sounded like this is what she really wants. We have always had God in our marriage but it seems like the past few years we have not turned to him as much as we probably should have. I told my wife that we need to get the “love” back in our marriage and the “desire to be together”. I told her that neither of those had anything to do with sex. They had everything to do with being happy with each other and looking forward to seeing each other again, no matter where we’ve been. Anyway, to make a long story short, I am looking forward to working to get our problems fixed so that we can live happily ever after. Of course my wife still has 2 months before she comes home so working on things will be long distance for the time being. Thanks for your prayers Paul and if you need someone to attest that miracles do happen, just let me know. Thanks again. Mike

  7. ma wife is always with unending excuses sometime i think shes cheating on me because she avoids even a kiss

    • Paul – It is unlikely this behaviour is a result of an affair – those who cheat usually continue or increase physical contact to help hide what they are doing.

      Either she is upset with you for some reason, or she is dealing with something outside your marriage (probably from her past) that causes her to have problems with physical intimacy.

      You need to discuss this with her, and that is probably best done with a third party – a pastor or counsellor.

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