First, let’s define “withholding sex” so that we are on the same page.
Withholding sex would mean – I purposely won’t have sex with my husband when I am actually able to.
(This applies to both spouses, but I only write for women, so I will be addressing only wives in this post.)
In that moment, he would like to have sex, and I am able to, but I decide that:
- I just don’t feel like it.
- It would take too much effort.
- I want to hurt/punish him by turning him down.
- I don’t care about his legitimate sexual needs.
- I don’t care that I vowed to be his “to have and to hold.”
- I don’t care that he feels bonded emotionally to me through sex and that it would bless him, just like I want him to talk with me and connect verbally with me.
The main issue here would be my motives. My motives, as a follower of Christ, are to be holy, kind, honorable, respectful, loving, and good. My motives are not to be selfish, uncaring, apathetic, hurtful, or malicious.
Scripture teaches a few principles that I believe apply to how we are to relate to our spouses (and all people) and how we are not to relate to them:
- Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 1 Cor. 13:4-5
- The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gal. 5:22-23
- Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Heb. 13:4
- Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:19-21
(Check out the NOTES at the end of this post for a few clarifications.)
Let’s take a look at a passage in scripture about this issue:
“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Cor. 7:1-5
Each spouse is to voluntarily and willingly yield to the other. It is a decision made by each individual. It is not forced on anyone.
Some people misunderstand this concept of each spouse “having authority” over the other person’s body to mean that God is saying a husband can rape his wife or take sex with her by force. Or that a wife can violently force her husband to have sex with her against his will. That may be the world’s definition of “authority.” But it is not God’s. Let’s note that the passage never commands a me (or anyone else) to:
- Take what I want.
- Use violence to get my way.
- Physically abuse my spouse, it is my right.
- Be selfish if my spouse is sick, upset, or hurting.
- All that matters is what I want, not what my spouse wants.
- My spouse owes me sex, so I don’t have to have any concern for if this is a good time for him.
- Be as thoughtless as possible.
- My sex drive is the only thing in the world that is important.
- My spouse’s needs for other things don’t matter.
The commands are given to each spouse to be giving, generous, and available to the other spouse when possible.
Sometimes spouses try to beat each other over the head with this passage, demanding sex from each other. That breaks my heart!
In God’s economy, “authority” is not about taking things by force. It is not about being a selfish dictator, tyrant. It is not about exalting self and selfishness. It is about humility, selflessness, and having a servant’s heart.
But Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Matt. 20:25-27
The one flesh relationship in marriage is supposed to be a beautiful picture of the one Spirit relationship we have with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t spiritually force Himself on us. Ever. He respects our free will to choose to abide in Him or not.
The goal is: selflessness. Unity. Oneness.
Sex is supposed to be a picture of the one Spirit relationship Jesus has with His people. It is supposed to be beautiful and a mutual blessing.
Each spouse should seek to be loving, kind, respectful, understanding, giving, generous, thoughtful, and sensitive to the other. It is about being selfless and loving with the agape love of Christ. It is about seeking to edify the other. Not about taking what I want for myself.
Scriptural principles prohibit believers in Christ from using violence or force to demand their way:
- The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Ps. 11:5
- Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Isa. 58:4
- Love does no harm to a neighbor. Rom. 13:10
- Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Pet. 3:7
- Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Col. 3:19
- Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:4
- Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Cor. 10:24
- We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Rom. 15:1-3
- But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. … 2 Tim. 3:1-8
Satan’s strategy before marriage is to try to tempt us into having sex outside of God’s plan.
After marriage, his strategy is to tempt us into not having sex with our husbands. Or – to desire it with someone else. Again, he encourages us to go outside of the loving, good, life-giving boundaries God has set up in His design for sex.
Let’s not be ignorant of the enemy’s strategies to steal, kill, and destroy our marriages, our husbands, our ourselves, my precious sisters. In this area, or in any other.
PRAY WITH ME:
We invite Your healing Spirit into the marriages, families, and homes of all who read this post. We invite Your healing for spiritual, emotional, and sexual intimacy. We invite You to raise marriages up from struggle and pain to victory and wholeness. Lord, rebuke Satan and all of his plans to steal, kill, and destroy in our marriages. He has no authority in our lives anymore. We are dead to this world and we are under the authority of Jesus! Satan wants to divide us in our marriages. He wants us to hold onto hurt and bitterness. He wants to leave families and marriages in shambles. Let us refuse to cooperate with him and his plans. Let us submit all to You – Your Lordship, Your wisdom, Your glory, and Your will. We invite Your love and power to sweep through our midst and to bring new supernatural Life into our husbands, into our marriages, into every area of intimacy, and into ourselves. Let our marriages display the power, beauty, and glory of the Gospel. Not for our selfish purposes – but for Your Kingdom!
I am not planning to have comments on this post. Thanks for understanding. No one answers to me. Or to any other commenters. I don’t want to create more confusion for anyone. Or become engaged in inappropriate conversations in mixed company.
We answer to the Lord and to our spouses on this issue.
If you have concerns about this issue, please check out what the Bible has to say. Pray. Take your issues to Him. Invite His healing into your marriage. God’s wisdom is really the only thing that matters. (Please always compare anything I say to the Word of God.)
Also, check out the resources below. 🙂
Let’s Talk about Sex – this post has links to all of my other posts about sex including resources for wives whose husbands want a lot more sex than they do and wives whose husbands want less sex than they do. It also has resources for wives who have pain during sex.
If your husband is purposely refusing to have sex with you, please check out Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin.
A Precious Example – and in this post, a couple who has been married for decades shares what this concept should look like in practice in a Christian marriage in a beautiful way.
If one of you is struggling with porn or a sex addiction, please check out this resource www.xxxchurch.com. There are resources for men and women who want to find victory over porn addiction in Christ. There are also resources for spouses of those who are addicted to porn.
Forgivenwife.com is a resource for wives who have gotten into the habit of withholding sex and want to heal and change in Christ.
Unlock Your Libido is an ebook for wives who struggle with low libido and want to see God heal their marriage by His power.
If you want more connection emotionally/spiritually with your husband – I have a lot of resources on that here. My desire is to see marriages whole, vibrant, and healthy with strong intimacy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Leave me a comment on another post and I will help you find the posts that may be a blessing. Some examples might be:
- Strong Marriages Do Not Happen by Accident
- My Husband Doesn’t Speak My Love Language
- 17 Tips to Ask for What You Desire Respectfully – husbands respond well to a respectful approach, not nagging, crying, demanding, etc…
- 25 Ways to Be a Safe Place for Your Husband Emotionally
- 25 Simple Ways to Enjoy Your Man
- 25 Ways to Show Real Respect for Your Husband
- 25 Ways to Respect Myself
If you have very serious issues in your marriage, please seek godly, experienced, trustworthy one-on-one counseling.
If you need a referral to a Christian counselor, please check out the free service available at Focus on the Family.
ABUSE – if you are being abused by your husband (or wife) please contact a trusted, experienced counselor, your local domestic violence resources, or the police. Or get in touch with thehotline.org.
IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A SAVING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST – please read this post.
- I don’t believe it is “withholding sex” if a spouse is actually not able to have sex at that moment. So if a spouse is very sick, in a lot of pain, is physically unable to have sex for some reason, is away from home on business, etc… the other spouse would want to seek to offer grace and understanding. Of course, if there is some kind of sexual dysfunction, disease, or emotional pain, a spouse would not want to ignore it and let it go on untreated. He/she would want to try to find healing for the situation so that one can try to be available to one’s spouse if possible. (If healing is not possible or may take some time, please check out this post.)
- Another situation where it may be unwise to have sex is if the spouse is involved in an unrepentant affair. I have seen God restore marriages after adultery, many times. But it is my understanding that the wayward spouse would need to repent and produce much fruit of repentance before a sexual reunion could take place. And the faithful spouse is not biblically required to take back the wayward spouse. But – they may decide to do so as an act of grace if the wayward spouse sincerely repents and trust is restored and they feel led to do so.
- If there is major tension or a wife is really hurting emotionally/spiritually – it is certainly fine for her to respectfully ask for what she needs to feel safe and secure so she can relax and feel right about having sex with her husband.
- There are times when talking through something first is a necessary step to begin healing.
- There are times when having sex first and talking later can be a wonderful pathway to begin healing.
- Husbands tend to connect emotionally (and sometimes even spiritually) with their wives through having sex. Sometimes husbands don’t have the same need for verbally connecting emotionally that wives do. We have different needs and ways of feeling connected. I’d love to see both spouses selflessly seeking to meet the other’s needs and being understanding and compassionate.
- Withholding sex before marriage is not a sin. It is obedience to God’s Word.