When I first started out as a mental health therapist working in a Christian counseling center I had no idea how often I would be talking about sex!
At least once a day the topic comes up with a client. Sometimes it is through the lens of past trauma. Or discussing sex education with a confused adolescent (with parent consent). Other times it is working through pornography addiction.
But honestly I hadn’t anticipated how frequently I would be discussing misuses of sex within marriages. And unfortunately, the regularity is increasing.
Because in society the understanding of sexual intimacy is getting further and further away from how God designed it to be. And too many Christian marriages are allowing the cultural view of sex to creep into their bedroom.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”…For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:18, 24 (NIV)
It should also be noted that the same Hebrew word for helper “ezer” in Genesis 2:18, is used sixteen times in reference to God as a helper. I don’t think anyone is going to diminish God as our helper therefore it should hold the same level of importance within a marriage!
Sexual intimacy is an important part of marriage. God gave us this gift as a way to physically and emotionally become unified with our spouse. It is the most intimate and vulnerable act that can be completed with another human-being. We show our spouse our love and trust through sexual intimacy.
Unfortunately, as with all things of value, it can be used to connect or to divide.
Within the marriage, too often, intercourse gets used as a weapon, bargaining chip, or leverage. Both husbands and wives use these tactics. I’ll address the ways that I have seen to be most common.
Husbands may inappropriately use sex as a way to show authority or dominance over his wife.
Sexual intimacy is not to be forced verbally and absolutely not physically. It doesn’t matter that you are married. This behavior is abuse. Abuse is not acceptable and it is not biblical.
Aggression and/or violence does not breed respect. It only creates fear and fear has no place within a Christian marriage.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:19 (NIV)
Husbands may also use sex as an ultimatum. This may be verbally spoken or reinforced through actions.
“If you won’t have sex with me I won’t…” or “If you won’t have sex with me I’ll…”
Both are threats! Too often people use scripture for their own benefit and make verses fit their desires. This is perversion of God’s word!
I work with men who quote Ephesians 5:23 (NIV):
The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
That could be a pretty heavy verse if there isn’t the understanding of what Christ did for His church!
So lets go on to Ephesians 5:25 (NIV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
1 Peter 3:7 will also get thrown around to prove a point but it is often misguided.
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 for the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
The only part that these husbands want to focus on is the ‘weaker partner’. They completely miss the ‘treat them with respect’ and ‘as heirs with you’!
Wives aren’t without fault on this topic either. Women just tend to be more passive/aggressive in their ways of misusing intercourse. But passive/aggressive is still a form of aggression! And it tends to be in attempts to control their husband.
1 Peter 3:1-2 (NIV) Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without talk by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
Passive/aggressive behavior is not going to win over your husband to be more loving and caring towards you!
Sexual intimacy is not to be purposefully withheld. I have worked with many women who have stated, “He doesn’t deserve sex.” Or “If I give in he’ll think he can get it whenever he wants.”
Sex should not be a way for you to reward or punish your husband!
Wives may also use sexual intimacy as an ultimatum. Again this may be verbally spoken or reinforced through actions.
“If I have sex with you then you have to…”
Ephesians 5:22, 24 (NIV) Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
*Let me be clear – if your spouse is being abusive your call to be submissive does not hold water!! Again, a husband is supposed to treat his wife as Christ treated the church! If you are in an abusive marriage please seek support and guidance on how to proceed.
A need for partnership
Let’s look again at the passage from Ephesians but as a whole as it’s meant to be.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:22-25 (NIV)
The relationship between husband and wife is meant to be a partnership and a union! Sex was a gift to bring married couples closer together. It was not meant to be a weapon held against each other!
If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:15 (NIV)
I pray that that is post is a warning for you and your husband and not a situation you are currently in. But it you are, I pray that you are able to look at your actions with a clear lens and seek support.