You look at happily married couples with envy. It looks like they get to express themselves sexually any time they want to, and you wish you could do the same. Surely God couldn’t have meant for you to survive long-term without getting your sexual needs met, could He? How far can you go? What can you do?
Your biological urge to be intimate with another human being was built into you by God. Your desire and needs may feel stronger or less strong than someone else’s, but it’s very real for you. If the desire, the need, and the capacity for sexual intimacy is God-given, what do you do when getting that need met within marriage seems impossible?
You’re not alone in your wrestling with these issues:
- You’ve never been married, and you’d have to admit you’re worried about missing out on your best days to experience sexual exhilaration if you don’t act out now.
- You’re married but intimacy with your spouse is much less frequent and much less satisfying than you need. Other options are looking awfully appealing.
- You’ve been married before and you remember the joy of sexual intimacy. Your drive is still there, and you can’t imagine a life without getting that need met.
- Regardless of your marital status, the sexual messages in popular media, from your friends, or easy-to-get pornography keep calling you to “express your desires more fully.”
One of the frequent questions I get asked on my website is about this issue. “What happens to a husband if his wife will not have sex?” “How long can a person go without having sex?” “Where can I get my sexual needs met if I’m not married?”
I feel your pain. I was single for 48 years before I married my loving husband. I’m single again since he passed away some months ago. Although our years together were very happy, there were periods during our marriage when Al’s medical problems affected our intimacy together. I know what it’s like to wrestle with these feelings and questions.
If you’re married, you can work to improve the sexual intimacy between you and your spouse. Sometimes, however, that’s not possible. And perhaps you’re single and have no marriage relationship to work to improve. Here are some things to know and some things to do if you want to live with sexual integrity and don’t have a spouse to meet those needs.
What to Know
We live in a broken world. Things are not all as God intended them to be. He will make all things right when Jesus returns, but in the meantime we cannot assume that our desires and needs – as legitimate as they may be – are a reliable guide to what is good, healthy, and righteous.
We may have a “need” to consume a half-gallon of Blue Bell ice cream while binge-watching a marathon of NCIS reruns. We may have a “need” to ease the excruciating mental and physical pain with alcohol or pain pills. We may have a “need” to act out our bitterness and anger at people who betrayed and wounded us deeply. Our “needs” feel overwhelming.
But seeking to fulfill those needs in unhealthy, ungodly ways only eases the drive for a little while. And when the sugar high wears off you feel guilty, sluggish, and worse than ever. The withdrawals from alcohol or pills only return stronger than before. The bitterness and anger only eat away at your insides, creating a larger and larger hole.
God created you with a need for sex, and He created a legitimate way for that need to be fulfilled – through sexual intimacy between husband and wife in marriage. Seeking to fill that need elsewhere may seem satisfying for a time, but it will lead to unintended destructive consequences in the future. God is not trying to deny you of something that would be good for you; He wants to prevent you from having to experience unnecessary heartache and pain.
A few things to know:
- You have a choice in how you deal with your sexual desires. “Giving in” to meeting them in illegitimate or ungodly ways is not inevitable.
- You will not suffer any ill effects from not getting your sexual needs met. Unlike food, your body can go without sex and do just fine.
- God understands your needs. If you’ve messed up in the past He loves you just the same. He offers you cleansing and forgiveness.
- The choices you make going forward will impact how well – or not well – you handle your sexual desires.
What to Do
What do you do on a practical level? How do you handle the urges? How do you live with sexual integrity even when it’s hard?
Remember that it’s God you are accountable to, not society, or me, or your church. This is a journey of continuing spiritual maturity and transformation. Your choices and behaviors will have consequences, but it’s not a one-time thing. It’s a decision you make about how you will live before God, and then a decision you keep on making day after day.
Here are a few things you and I can do that will help in dealing with sexual needs when a satisfying sexual relationship in marriage is not currently an option:
- Stay physically healthy. Your mind’s ability to choose, focus, and see the big picture is affected by your physical health. Eating a healthy diet of unprocessed foods, getting adequate physical exercise, and getting adequate rest will do much to help your mind be prepared to make healthy decisions.
- Find healthy ways to deal with stress. Sex is much more than a way to relieve stress, but when your feelings are swirling it may feel as though it’s the only way that will work. That’s not true. Find what fills you up, and do more of that; time in nature, healthy hobbies, fulfilling work, etc.
- Stay connected to other growing believers. You are not meant to battle alone. Choose to spend time around other believers who are growing spiritually, and who can be mutually supportive in choosing sexual integrity. Struggling with pornography? Check out xxxchurch.com. Or for a broader perspective, check out Every Man’s Battle and Every Woman’s Battle.
- Choose your mental diet. Eating one potato chip is not the way to deal with your unhealthy food cravings. Similarly, just one look will not satisfy you; it will only fuel your sexual fires. Be honest about what makes you vulnerable, and choose to spend time in other places. Choose entertainment that helps strengthen your desire for sexual integrity.
- Pray about it. A lot. God understands your feelings. He also understands that intimacy is much more than physical, and that the God-shaped hole in your heart can only be filled by Himself. Give Him the chance to fill you, speak to you, satisfy you, cleanse you, guide you, mature you. He will not let you down.
You can survive without sex, but you cannot survive without intimacy. Other godly friendships can fill some of those needs. Your deepest needs for intimacy, however, can only be met by God Himself. Don’t discount that without spending lots of time with Him and giving Him a chance.
Give God the opportunity to meet your deepest needs – married or single. And He will.
Your Turn: How have you dealt with your sexual needs if you are unable to do so within a satisfying marriage? What role have you found God plays in that equation?
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