Physical intimacy in a marriage is a vital assessment of how a couple relates to each other. The challenge is having transparent conversations about their sexual relationship. If left unattended, sexual desires rarely cease but take on distortions that adversely impact the couple. Mable found herself in this unenviable situation with her husband, Biff.
You may want to read:
- Sex Before Marriage Leads to a Trail of Tears
- From Adultery to Restoration In Thirteen Steps
- We Fornicated While Dating, But Why Did He Commit Adultery?
The Marriage Problem
Hello Mable! How can I help you?
I feel like a Christian prostitute.
And with that, your counseling session begins.
Mable has been married for 27 years, most of which has been one series of miscommunication after another. She says her husband, Biff, seems to have one thing on his mind, and the only time he is consistently kind to her is when he wants to be intimate.
When Biff does not get the intimacy he wants, he pouts at best and gets angry at worst. Sometimes she will yield to his cravings, but finds no pleasure in the act. It is the only way she knows to bring temporary peace to their unhappy home. It is an endless cycle: pouting, anger, sex, pleasantness, pouting, anger, sex, pleasantness — ad nausea.
I know I’m part of the problem, but it cannot be all my fault. I would love to be intimate with my husband and even enjoy it. But right now, I do not see the light at the end of this hopeless tunnel. I honestly feel like a Christian prostitute. – Mable
A Needed Miracle
Physical intimacy within the marriage bond is one of God’s blessings to His creation. It is the way that a man and a woman can experience an undefiled intimate relationship. Unfortunately, because of sin, what the good Lord intended to be a beautiful thing has been distorted into various iterations of false intimacy.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4).
Mable presents what an almost unresolvable problem could be in a marriage. It’s not irreparable because of the hope and helps the good Lord brings to His children, but her situation is hard. There are times in some discipleship situations where God’s best is not likely to happen, at least from a human perspective.
And apart from a divine miracle, Mable is presenting one of these relational situations. If her goal is biblical intimacy, which should be the aim, she is a long way from ever attaining God’s best in their marriage bed because she is only half of the equation. It always takes two cooperative people to repair relational problems.
I am not generally a negative person. But I have counseled many people like Mable, and apart from God’s intervening grace and Biff’s cooperation, it will be a challenge for her marriage to ever get to the biblical norm. At least three things will need to happen.
- Biff will need to show up for counseling. Until he decides he needs help, wants help, comes for help, and responds biblically to it, the marriage will always be dysfunctional. I’m not saying that counseling is the only answer. I am saying he needs help and must cooperate.
- The main problem in the marriage is not their sexual dysfunction, though it is what Mable presented. Biff and Mable have several underlying unresolved issues. For example, they carry a lot of anger and unforgiveness in their hearts, which they do express to each other. The sexual problems are the tip of the iceberg, but not the most significant part of the ice.
- The gospel does not define their marriage because what they have is decidedly other-centered. For different reasons, Biff and Mable are self-centered. Though it doesn’t matter “who fired the first shot” or who is the wrongest, the truth is that both of them need to respond correctly to God and each other.
A Tour of Sexuality
There are many angles to their problems, and I will not address all of them here. But I will give you a helpful understanding of sexual distortions in relationships. In many cases, when a man is not sexually intimate with his wife, it is because he is finding satisfaction in other ways.
In the end, I will present what should be the biblical norm for sexuality in relationships, the place where Biff and Mable need to be. But first, let’s look at sex and sexuality from a bird’s eye view because you must not dismiss any of these distortions as inhibitors in their marriage.
Caveat – All of these sexual distortions are equally sinful because sin is sin. But they are different from a consequential perspective. For example, a man in adultery and a man masturbating is similarly sinful but consequentially different. Here is my list of sexual distortions, ending with the goal for Biff and Mable.
I begin here, rather than with the more perverse sexual acts in which some people engage, e.g., bestiality. Homosexuality is a distortion of physical intimacy on many levels, and the primary way it distorts biblical sex is that God made sex for a man and a woman, rather than between two men or between two women.
Though our culture mocks my view on sex in their movies and social grandstanding, God indeed made sex for Adam and Eve, not Adam and another male. This truth is so apparent that it can boggle the mind as to why there is an argument about this sexual distortion. But I do understand the deceptiveness and addictiveness of sin, which is why I have no rocks to toss at my gay image-bearers.
I have long-standing sin patterns in my life that have been hard to overcome. It’s intellectually dishonest and self-righteously arrogant to look down on those who struggle with this sin, whether it’s because of how they came into the world or the shaping influences that have lured them to where they are today.
An equally sinful, but less distorted act of false intimacy is when a man or woman has sex with someone other than their spouse. Though they are having sex, they are 180-degrees from God’s intention. They are not “less guilty” or “more righteous” than a gay couple but merely sinning in a different way.
Just like the gay couple, the adulterous couple is choosing to defame God’s name by securing sexual intimacy outside of God’s ordained plan. They do this in defiance of God and a total disregard for the marriage covenant while dragging God’s holy name through the mud.
Though you do not want to accuse Biff of being gay or committing adultery, and you most definitely do not want to be suspicious of him, you must not dismiss these possibilities. Discernment does not mean cynicism or suspicion. You want to be wise when doing soul care.
This sexual distortion is a twisted kind of morality where two people do not want to honor God by entering into a covenant with Him, choosing to enjoy the “benefits of sex” without God’s blessing. They call it a relationship with “benefits,” which is a person’s way of mocking biblical propriety.
Just as all sex outside of marriage is selfish, the unmarried couple who chooses to live together is making additional selfish choices that stack on top of the intimacy problem. They refuse to commit to God or each other.
They enjoy sex while keeping one foot out the door; perchance the relationship does not work out. Part of their selfishness works out with their “easy come, easy go” attitude toward each other. But there are more issues. If a person has no problem with committing fornication, it won’t be a stretch for him to commit adultery if he gets married—when the marriage becomes hard, which it will.
Rather than choosing to have sex with their spouse, this person decides to have sex with himself, which applies to women too. Masturbation is a form of homosexuality in that the person pleases himself sexually, i.e., a man satisfying a man. In the sexual marriage problems that I have seen, many of them had masturbation issues in play.
This distortion makes it impossible for the masturbator to have a healthy sexual relationship with his spouse, assuming the person is married. The masturbator has a distorted view of God, the original purpose of the human body for intimacy, and the other-centered goals of the gospel.
For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (1 Corinthians 7:4).
God-centered and God-glorifying sex is not about satisfying yourself primarily, but about pleasing your spouse. The masturbator does not have his spouse in view at all. An additional and complicating issue with masturbation is that the masturbator has to distort his conscience to maintain his secret lifestyle, which has four debilitating results.
- He has a distorted view of God.
- He has a distorted view of himself.
- He has a distorted view of marriage.
- He has a distorted view of his wife.
It’s challenging to counsel the pornographer because many of these previously mentioned distortions are part of the problem. And to complicate matters, he won’t acknowledge them because of his hard conscience. His mind is dull to the “inner voice” that can direct him to the truth.
You may read this series:
- How to Think about a Porn Addiction, Pt. 1
- How to Break Free from a Porn Addiction, Pt. 2
- How to Resist Porn on a Daily Basis, Pt. 3
Sadly, many married pornographers use their addiction to motivate themselves to have intimacy with their spouses. His real wife can never compete with all his “false wives” on the Internet. She may never know what is happening, and there will never be complete intimate pleasure in their relationship.
Just as a gay person loses interest in the opposite sex, the masturbator will slowly lose interest in his wife. She will no longer be appealing to him, which will jeopardize their covenant. For more information on this problem, please read our pornography and addiction resources.
What About Biff?
It would not be surprising to find out that Biff has habituated himself in one of these sexual distortions. It is one reason you want to give some credence to the possibility of his overt selfishness regarding sex and how he seeks to manipulate his wife for intimacy. He is a user, not a giver.
Users are notorious for many forms of selfishness. When it comes to selfish sex, porn is the most comfortable and private way to get a sexual fix. But his cravings do not isolate in this one area. You will see other selfish manifestations outside the bedroom, e.g., he does not biblically lead, serve, honor, cherish, nourish, or disciple his wife.
He probably has convinced himself that he loves his wife correctly. And if you track back far enough into his childhood, more than likely, he was not shepherded well by his father. Without making excuses for him, a man cannot know what he does not know, and if his dad does not do well in training Biff, then that will be one powerful, adverse shaping influences.
It is on dads to lead their sons in the “ways of a woman.” If that does not happen, these young men will marry, and their primary tutoring will come from the culture, movies, television shows, and whatever the poor example was in their homes.
The Marriage Dilemma
Where does all of this leave Mable? From her perspective, she feels like a Christian prostitute, as she has already stated. She sees her “sexual purpose” and Christian duty as meeting Biff’s needs whenever he wants intimacy. Rather than two people enjoying Spirit-empowered, grace-filled, sexual intimacy, their marriage is profoundly off-center when it comes to their physical relationship.
Biff and Mable could be Christians. You don’t want to discount that possibility. At best, they have marginalized the Lord because their covenant is nowhere near God-centered. They co-exist in a semi-relational marriage. There is an unstated “low-grade” discontentment that rides just underneath who they present themselves to be. Many times, couples stay in this type of marriage because it is the “right thing to do.”
Sometimes they stay “for the children’s sake” or to save face. Perhaps the wife has been married so long that to be single again is more horrifying than staying with this kind of person. At best, both of them resign to a life of mental, emotional, and spiritual drudgery.
The best sex is a threefold relationship between a man, a woman, and the Spirit of God. It is more than a physical activity because they want to respond to God by aggressively serving each other in their sanctification. And this kind of intimacy always starts outside the bedroom.
They genuinely love God and like each other (Matthew 22:36-40). You perceive this by the way they talk to each other, talk about each other, and how they react to each other. They are indeed one flesh in every sense of the word.
Their “oneness” bleeds through everything, i.e., marriage, parenting, finances, fitness, thoughts, desires, goals, hopes, failures, life, dreams, ideas, laughter, and much more. Biblical one-flesh living does not mean they agree on everything. I’m merely saying they are one, though uniquely different.
Two Magnify One
Adam and Eve were not the same, but they complemented each other perfectly. Lucia and I have different views on many things, but we are determined to mature in our one flesh-ness. She likes butter; I do not. She loves the ocean; it’s not a big deal to me.
The beauty of one flesh living is that we enjoy each other, and are especially glad we are different, which only maximizes our oneness to its most significant potential. Christ and the Church are “way different” from each other, but we make a beautiful one.
Physical intimacy is a natural, reasonable, biblical extension of the continuation of a couple’s one-flesh living. It’s best friends having sex. It’s glorious. It’s the threefold, crowning, intimate, vulnerable, transparent, inter-locking manifestation of a friendship ordained by God, empowered by God, and blessed by God.
It is the most potent and most physical way two people can express gratitude for each other. It’s a simultaneous miracle and blessing from God that He can take two sinners and transform them into the highest form of spiritual, physical intimacy known to humanity.
Keep the Goal In Mind
No relationship begins the way that I have just described, but it should be the goal that both partners must know, discuss, and pray toward fulfilling. In time, through perseverance, repentance, the help of friends, and the grace of God, they can enjoy a biblical, comprehensive one-flesh-ness.
Oddly, in this late hour of human history, Christians are still sheepish about these kinds of discussions. Gospel-centered people have had their biblical shame removed, and are now empowered to enter into these discussions with discretion, confidence, clarity, and wisdom. If you struggle sexually with your spouse, will you seek help today? Let us know how we can guide you.The Perfect Remedy for Those People Who Annoy You What Are Your Thoughts About Wolves and Weeds In the Church? »