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It would be ideal for all married people to enjoy intimacy without issues, but we don’t live in that world. With each person and couple, you must find your “starting point” before you begin to care for them.
You can’t assume or mandate that they have your standards or understanding. At the heart of the gospel is going to where people are, not demanding they be where you are. And when it comes to sexual intimacy, people can be all over the map.
Let me begin with a short descriptor of what biblical intimacy is for a husband and wife. It is two people enjoying each other physically and spiritually. It’s both their dichotomies (body and soul) entirely engaged with each other in love-making.
Every aspect of the soul, i.e., emotions, will, conscience, mind, and more, are involved in intimacy. And, of course, the body is engaging and benefiting from the act of love. This kind of physical and spiritual engagement means the amputation and mortification of sin are vital. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
Amputation – Behaviorally changing whatever is biblically appropriate so you can enjoy each other. E.g., if a husband is too physical, he needs to amputate that act. If a wife is a nag, she needs to stop, so it does not deter what is going on in the bedroom.
Mortification – Internally changing specific aspects of the soul, so it does not hinder love-making. Here are a few illustrations of soul problems.
Shame – If a spouse is struggling with shame in any way, that person will have a hard time giving themselves up wholly to their spouse.
Fear – Some spouses have had horrific things happen to them in the past. They may have a difficult time enjoying all that sex should be for them.
Conscience – Due to inferior shaping influences, a spouse could be confused about sex, which hinders the relationship from benefiting fully from the act of love. This person’s conscience condemns them when it should not.
Discernment – A spouse could be weak in wisdom, which hinders their ability to discern or understand their mate. This lack of understanding has an inhibiting effect when it comes to intimacy.
Sin – Of course, the biggest crippler of all is an individual’s experience with sin from their past. Whether someone abused them or they were into pornography, passive and active transgressions will limit what intimacy could be for a couple.
Pain – Physical discomfort is the most common issue when it comes to intimacy.
Disability – A spouse has a legitimate physical impairment that keeps them from fully engaging sexually.
Unattractive – One spouse could be turned off toward the other spouse. This problem is blending both dichotomies in the sense that there are physical and spiritual issues in play. E.g., a man does not like the way his wife looks, a physical problem. The solution is for him to repent, which is a soul problem.
Bad Habits – One spouse has an annoying habit, according to the other spouse. It would be wise and humble for the spouse with the habit to amputate it while it would be mature for the “annoyed spouse” to learn how to overlook a non-sin issue.
A couple must understand gospel-centered intimacy. If the couple does not, they will use sex as a means to satisfy themselves primarily, and the other partner will feel like a prostitute. I have already mentioned finding your starting point.
If you don’t understand your spouse, you will map your desires, habits, and expectations over them, which will kill what sex could be for both of you.
The key to gospel-centered intimacy is remembering that it’s primarily about the other person, not you. Are you supposed to enjoy it? Aren’t there benefits for you? Of course, there are, but those benefits are the by-product of your gospel-centered giving, not your self-centered getting.
If you flip the gospel on its head, you will make it about what you want rather than the other person, and both of you will lose. But if you see sex as a gift to give, there will be beautiful experiences that will come your way, and those benefits will be far more enjoyable than something you mandated or manipulated.
For the wife, it means that she will make herself as attractive as she can be for her husband because men are stimulated by what they see. For the husband, it means that he will see intimacy as a 24/7 opportunity to serve his wife rather than five minutes in the bedroom to satisfy his animal urges.
If the husband or wife does not get the gospel right, they will never enjoy intimacy the way the Lord intended. And the longer they go without correcting this “gospel mistake,” the accumulative effect of doing it wrong will pile up on them and be hard to unravel years down the road. They can fix the problems, but it will be difficult.
The title of this episode is, “Should a Wife Be Intimate With Her Husband If She Doesn’t Want To Be?” Let me answer the question. There may be times when the spouses should pull away from each other sexually so they can work on their problems, but it should not be a long time.
If the difficulty and confusion are so mysterious and intense between you, it’s vital that you get help immediately, and that you have a plan to come back together intimately so you can be all that God intends you to be with each other.
Saying “no” to sex does not have to be wrong. Never being intimate is a problem, and you both must talk about why you’re not physically active, which includes gaining outside perspectives and help.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).