(This is a message especially for wives. Last week I talked about the other side – a message for husbands.)
Should you always say Yes when your husband wants sex? How long do you pursue your husband if he does not pursue you? Is it OK to “just say NO” because you’re “not in the mood”? What’s the big deal about pursuing intimacy with your husband anyway?
There’s been controversy – and sometimes violence, guilt, and shame – arising from Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except 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 Corinthians 7:3-5)
First, some perspective please. This Scripture does not condone marital rape or God-talk domination and condemnation. Its purpose is not to load you with more oppression. We’re talking woman-to-woman here, and let’s be honest that the enemy has twisted this Scripture and incited some to use it to bring enormous destruction and pain.
Let’s also be honest that some of us women have twisted it too. Some have used the “devote yourselves to prayer” as an excuse to refuse sex with their husband. Ok ladies; are you praying for nine months? Or five years? If you’re working a job or cleaning your house or joining girlfriends for coffee, you’re not so “devoted to prayer” that you can’t connect with your husband.
But this Scripture IS in the Bible. What does it mean? Everything God says has a reason, and is for our good. So what is it here?
The best way to summarize, I believe, is this:
Pursue sexual intimacy with your husband even if you cannot pursue sexual activity with him.
I’m indebted to Dr Juli Slattery for saying it this way. It cuts away much of the distortion and objections and points to the bottom line.
Sexual intimacy between husband and wife goes far beyond the physical acts. It’s possible to engage in physical sex with your mind and heart disengaged, thinking about anything (or someone) else, putting up internal walls, or building resentment. That’s not intimacy.
God has called you to minister to your husband (just as God has called your husband to love you). If you see giving in to intercourse as doing your wifely duty, you are NOT fulfilling what God has asked you to do. Allowing your husband to relieve his physical need for sexual release is a comparatively small part of pursuing intimacy as God intends.
Don’t get me wrong; many husbands desire sex more frequently than their wives. (There are plenty of exceptions!) And coming together sexually can make it easier for him to live with sexual integrity. (Remember, he is responsible for his eyes and heart, not you.) Physical sex means something to him that it may not mean to you, and it’s super important to him that you embrace that part of him.
But pursuing intimacy goes much deeper.
God, Intimacy, and Us
To understand what God desires for us in marriage it’s important to understand what He wants between us and Him. Paul reminds us that the connection between you and your husband is to be a picture of the intimacy between you and Christ. (Ephesians 5:32)
Your connection – intimacy – with your husband is a metaphor, a picture, an example, a proving ground, of the spiritual connection between you and Jesus.
Wow. So sex is holy? YES!! It should be. And it can be.
But don’t go there just yet. From what you know of what God desires between you and Himself, how would you characterize that relationship? As you picture an ideal connection between you and Jesus, what would that look like?
Here are some words and phrases that could describe that. Loving. Deep. Full of value. No secrets. Understanding. Satisfying. Transforming. Healing. Safe. Challenging. Unselfish. Forgiving. Unending. Trusting. Authentic. Enduring through good and bad. Inspiring. Can you think of others?
That’s the kind of intimacy God desires for you to have with your husband. And the kind of intimacy Paul says you should be pursuing.
How to Pursue Intimacy
How about a few practical ideas on what it looks like to pursue that kind of intimacy with your husband. This won’t always be easy; it’s a journey that will continue throughout your marriage. But it’s immeasurably worth it.
Ditch the baggage.
You probably already know that there may be “junk” in your own life that is keeping you from intimacy. Perhaps that’s shame and guilt from a previous sexual relationship or affair, bitterness over your husband’s past or present behavior, addiction, walls put up through childhood abuse or other trauma, medical issues currently, etc.
Pursuing intimacy with your husband may mean, for this season, that you focus on dealing with your own baggage. If there’s something in your own body, heart, mind, emotions, etc. that is keeping you from connecting fully with him, you are responsible before God for taking action to deal with it.
This does not usually mean refusing sex until you finish dealing with your stuff. It may mean getting therapy if needed, getting medical care, and doing the hard work of communication with your husband about these tough things. And there are countless examples where a godly loving marriage is the means God uses to bring you amazing healing for your own wounds. Give God – and your husband – that chance.
Study your husband.
Make your husband your primary study. Notice what makes him depleted and worried, and what makes him proud and energized. Seek to understand what makes him tick, what worries him, what drives him. Be a safe place for him to be himself, and to share himself with you. Learn what he responds to mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Notice the wounds your husband has received or is receiving, and guard them well. You’re not responsible to fix him, but you can be an indispensable part of how God works healing is his life. Be the one he can count on and trust. Find the times, places, circumstances, and ways to communicate that your husband can truly hear, understand, and engage. Look for the ways God is working in his life, and support that.
Take a mental step in his direction.
Sex begins in the mind. Make the decision to move in your husband’s direction. Your husband most likely wants you to want him. (There are exceptions, of course.) You can help him connect with you mentally, spiritually, and physically. Demonstrate to him by your words and actions that you see him, desire him, and want to be with him.
Sometimes that connection will be listening to what’s important to him, letting him be your hero, catching him doing something right and showing you’re proud of him. That may be forgiving him when you need to, and showing him respect.
Sometimes that connection will be drawing out his sexual desires directly. If you mentally choose to move in his direction your body will be much more likely to respond in kind. Come up with a code or signal between the two of you to let each other know when sex is on your mind; if your husband sends the signal, actively look for a time and way when you can respond. If saying Yes right now would lead to resentment, say Not Yet and take responsibility for coming together soon.
Stay on your knees.
Since intimacy with your husband is what God desires for you, talk to Him about it. Ask Him to show you the places in your own heart that He needs to work on. Ask Him to fill your heart with unselfish love, wise forgiveness, and holy desire for your husband. And ask Him to help you see how you can help your husband experience intimacy in all the ways God built you both for.
There will be hiccups along the journey to intimacy. The enemy loves to distort and destroy. You and I are broken human beings. We cannot do this on our own. You will need God’s healing, His wisdom, His courage, and His grace to continue to do this well.
Intimacy at its Best
Pursuing intimacy with your husband isn’t to be limited to when you are young and “vigorous.” It can – and must – continue even if sexual activity is not possible for one or the other of you, whether for physical, emotional, or other reasons.
Intimacy may be scary, and hard. But the rewards of continuing to pursue intimacy with your husband will be worth it. God is asking nothing less of you.
And even more, pursuing this kind of intimacy with your husband will make intimacy with Jesus even richer for you than ever.
How might you pursue intimacy with your husband this week? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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