You expected to be having sex with your spouse when you got married. And you may have also imagined that since you’re now entitled to sex, that would validate you as a man or woman, cure your lust problem, or satisfy your desire for intimacy. How’s that working out for you?
Sex is one of those big pain points for many couples. The meaning you attach to sex is different from that of your spouse. Sexual baggage from the past invades your relationship. Your sexual appetite around frequency or adventurousness differs significantly from your spouse’s.
And divorce attorneys get rich off the consequences.
But it’s even worse than that. Christian spouses (more often husbands, but it can be either spouse) can wield Scripture as a manipulative weapon trying to force their spouse into having sex in what could only be viewed as religious rape.
Yes, that’s a bit of a dramatic description. It doesn’t apply to every marriage. And for the record, I had a very loving marriage to a wonderful Christian man. We had a healthy sexual relationship which I treasured. I was privileged to experience what it means to be truly cherished, and I look forward to seeing him again in glory.
But I hear from too many deeply damaged spouses to let this go without addressing. Here’s the thing that too many don’t understand:
You Are Not Entitled to Sex!
I know what some of you are going to do right now. You’re going to pull out 1 Corinthians 7. So, let’s go there.
“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 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. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)
That Scripture has often been used as a weapon in shaming a wife into having sex. Yes, there are plenty of spouses who use withholding of sex to manipulate and shame as well; that is for another article. Right now I’m talking to those who believe a Christian marriage gives them the right to demand sex, pout when they don’t get it, or use their spouse’s lack of sexual response as an excuse to get sexual satisfaction from porn or other sources outside the marriage.
Remember that Jesus, the most fully alive human being ever to walk this earth, never had sex. He understands how you feel. He understands your drives and heartaches. But like He did when He was here, you can learn to submit your sexual desires to your Heavenly Father. He made you to desire sex. But sex is not a need.
Believing You Are Entitled to Sex Destroys Relationship
So back to 1 Corinthians 7. Doesn’t that passage mean you are entitled to sex with your spouse?
No. It doesn’t.
Demanding your “rights” from anyone, even from your spouse, goes entirely against everything Jesus demonstrated. It goes against how we are to behave toward each other as believers, especially a fellow Christian spouse. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
James says it this way: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1-3)
The Greek words here translated desire and passions are often translated lusts. This is much broader than sex. It has to do with wanting for oneself regardless of the cost to the other. It’s the epitome of entitlement.
When a spouse says, “Give me your body because I want it, because I need it” that is lust. It’s entitlement.
And when Scripture is used as a weapon to accomplish that, it’s religious rape.
Can you begin to understand why your spouse feels distant, resentful, even abused? And when it comes down to it, you don’t only want the physical release of sex; you want your spouse to want you. That cannot be forced anyway.
Perhaps you haven’t been nearly that overt in demanding sex from your spouse. But I challenge you to ask yourself, “Do I believe I’m entitled to sex?” If the answer is yes, it’s time for a change.
Sex as a Gift
The only way sex works in marriage is when both partners submit “to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
That means inviting instead of demanding, cherishing instead of using, thinking more of your spouse’s needs than of your own. It means learning to communicate, including talking about sex. It means seeing your spouse as a whole person, embracing them with your whole soul, and seeking to deeply connect not only with their body but also with their mind, soul, and spirit.
If you are taking something – sex – from your spouse, that’s entitlement.
Sex works in marriage when both partners are eager to give to the other. That means you must see yourself as giving in sex, not taking.
Sex works in marriage when both spouses are seeking to outdo each other in showing love.
If that’s not happening in your marriage, don’t blame your spouse; you can’t change them anyway. Ask God to show you yourself as He sees you, and then to do the work in your heart that’s needed.
No, you are not entitled to sex.
But the opportunity you have is to become the kind of spouse that your husband or wife would gladly open their whole self to you – body, mind, and soul.
Your Turn: Have you believed you are entitled to sex? How has that worked itself out in your marriage? Leave a comment below.
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- Have you felt you are entitled to sex? How’s that working out for you? Sex only works when both husband and wife seek to give to each other. And that’s not something you can – or should – try to take from your souse. Tweet that.
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