Living in a Sexless Marriage

Seems like an oxymoron. After all, one of the major pursuits of marriage is the joy and pleasure of sex. All the way back in Genesis, God says a man is to leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, “and the two shall become flesh.”  Sex, in the context of marriage, is part of God’s call for a husband and wife; to enjoy a level of intimacy unparalleled by any other human relationship.  Exclusivity in the bedroom is to be an awesome part of marriage!  

But, what if that is not the case? 

What if the woman you pursued, fell in love with, the one who captured your heart, the one you stood before the altar with and said “I do” to, in one form or fashion withholds her body from you?  What if sex in your new marriage is less than what you imagined? What if your desires and dreams for sexual intimacy are fading quickly?  No one is blaming the wife here. One of the many newlywed discoveries a couple faces often finds sexual drives vastly different. In many cases, not all, the guy wants sex far more than his wife. Finding that mutual balance takes time and it takes both him and her to work together. But, what if there isn’t a mutual effort to figure things out?  What if one party uses sex, or the withholding of it, to actually control the relationship?

There was a time in my marriage when my wife’s and my sexual drives were vastly different. Come to find out, I had a medical problem that shut off my hormones. Through many tests and medicines, the problem was resolved, greatly helping our marriage! Sometimes, the problem is medical. In working through why there is a disparity in your sex life as a married couple, it’s worth both of you going to the doctor.

Beyond medical reasons, there can be a host of emotional and experiential reasons for a sexless marriage. Perhaps there is unresolved sexual abuse in the past. Wounds deep in the heart that induce fear of having sex. One of the greatest tensions is for a couple who say they love Jesus but struggle in their sex life because of unresolved issues. 

There’s a great passage I discovered that helps me process how to live out a healthy sex life in marriage. Take the time to ponder God’s Word.

1.Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 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. 5 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 ESV

Conjugal Rights

The split-second my wife and I said “I do”, we gave ourselves to each other for life. That means I no longer have authority over my body first. In fact, God has the top authority and my wife also has authority over my body, which means I have the privilege of serving her sexually and vice versa. When one spouse withholds such, the only valid reason is by agreement for a limited time, so that there can be a greater focus on one’s pursuit of the Lord. The problem is when the limited time becomes an extended time and the pursuit of the Lord is not the main reason for withholding sex. Paul knew that withholding sex in marriage for reasons other than pursuing the Lord can open the door for sexual temptations. A guy can go crazy if sex is withheld. If he struggled with pornography in the past, he might relapse back into it. Or, along with that, he starts masturbating in secret; both of which kill intimacy in a marriage. He might even pursue an affair if his wife is not willing to share in mutual sex with her husband. 

But I Love Jesus

Everyone is on a journey. No one has figured life out completely. We each live out of our brokenness, with the hope that God will father us through it all. If we applied godly wisdom to our sexless marriage, we would see where our walk needs to align with our talk. Loving your husband, loving your wife, is foundational to loving God. Withholding yourself from your spouse, sexually, and in other relational ways could be a sign that there are deeper things going on in the secret parts of your heart that need the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.  

Will You Get Help?

I mentioned earlier about a sexless season in our marriage. To be honest, we struggled. Sure, we loved each other but could never put a finger on what was inhibiting our sex life. For a while, I started to believe I was the problem. That somehow I was no longer as fired up about our marriage as I was when we were newlyweds. It wasn’t until I agreed to see the doctor, as a way to rule out any medical issues, that we quickly discovered where the real problem lied. 

Whatever It Takes

If you are facing a sexless marriage, then I pray like crazy that both of you will do whatever it takes to discover the root issues. It could be a medical problem.  Start there. Then, move on to ways you can have God search your heart.  If one of you is unwilling to get help, then I exhort you, by the love of Christ, and by the vows you said before Him, your spouse and family and friends, get help NOW! It will be the most loving thing you can do for your marriage.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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