Exhausted of Excuses

Today I want to bring up a very sensitive subject, which I'm afraid happens all too frequently in Christian marriages. Too many Christian wives have a consistent attitude of denial and excuses regarding their physical relationship with their husband.
Do any of these sound familiar?
"I'm just too tired tonight, honey."

"Ever since the last baby,
I just haven't been in the mood as much."

"That's all he ever wants; if I didn't beg off sometimes, I'd never be left alone."

"I don't understand why he thinks I would do
that when we haven't talked all day!"

"I've had kids crawling all over me today-
I just want to have my body to myself for a while."

Because we take our lead from unmarried, secular women like Oprah and Rosie, and from the anti-family Hollywood culture, we find ourselves parroting attitudes promoted by those sources. That refusing to act on our oneness, withholding physical affection, and rejecting the one man God has given to us is not only understandable - it's

Contrast these excuses with this Biblical command, found in 1 Corinthians 7:
"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."
I have some ideas about the origins of these excuses:

We have borrowed these excuses from others-- from sitcoms, perhaps our parents' attitudes toward intimacy, perhaps our friends, perhaps Victorian-era heldover notions, and then when we truly feel tired, or we truly feel frustrated that we haven't had much time to talk and "warm up" with our husbands, we feel justified in withholding intimacy.

Some women have personal histories of abuse which can affect every touch and sexual act with their husbands. By no means does this have to be an excuse, as we know that no challenge is too great for our God, Who has names of Counselor & Healer. But many women shun getting help or counseling. (I'm not talking here about abuse within the marriage- that's a very different issue and one I am in no way qualified to discuss. But regardless of where the abuse stems from, counseling and healing can take place and the marriage relationship can benefit from such a decision.)

The marriage relationship has not been maintained or has been put behind other priorities. If a woman hasn't been communicating with her husband, it can feel *wrong* to be intimate. If she has a tighter bond with and commitment to the children than she does to her husband, she can easily *feel* like not being intimate. If she has begun confiding in friends about disappointment in her husband, she can *feel* emotionally disconnected from her husband and thus not want to share in physical love.

But regardless of what others say, what my past is, or how I feel, I and my husband are one before God. Beyond our spiritual oneness, I must work to maintain not only emotional oneness but physical oneness. I will not be held responsible for what my husband does or does not do. But I
will be held responsible for obeying the Word of God, which includes a command- directed to me- to "not deprive".

I hope you're feeling encouraged, if you've had the tendency to beg off from intimacy in the past, to begin saying "yes" to your husband. To begin not just "performing a wifely duty" (which conjures images in my mind of drudgery and enslavement), but begin enjoying your husband in this way. To begin delighting yourself in him and, no doubt, delighting him by making your physical oneness a priority in your marriage.

If you'd like to discuss this further, please leave questions or comments, and you can even do so anonymously if you like. For more extensive or personal questions, you can also feel free to e-mail me at the address at the bottom of this webpage.

Blessings on you AND your marriage!


sealjoy said...

So many women are told this is "normal", but we are sold so many different "normalcies" from this world, why should we as Christians choose which of these we want to enact? Yes, after back to back pregnancies, nursing, and dealing with a toddler, it can seem like another chore, but if you talk to yourself during the day and encourage the intimate thoughts about your husband, you will tend to look forward to it. Prepare your own mind during the day, and seek your husband's embrace as a short vacation from reality and the stresses of the world.

One of the biggest things I love about my husband is his ability to banish stress by just holding me. I am at peace. He is my refuge and the shelter God gave me. Seeking out my shelter at the end of the day in whatever way we decide is a beautiful thing. No, our private life hasn't been the same since our kids, and I don't expect it to return until the 2:30am visits to the family bed are finished. But we still manage to find our intimate times. I find it less of a chore or less stressful, if I look at it the same way as a relaxing massage, it is a beautiful, stress free and loving connection that doesn't cost a dime!

I would recommend reading the book Hadassah: One Night With the King by Tommy Tenney. It gives a beautiful perspective that will change the way you look at your husband and your God.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

I am a pastor's wife. My husband is a Godly man, Christlike, always seeking ways to serve me. This is astounding not just because being like Christ is so tough, but because being like Christ to *me* is so tough. I am a selfish woman, prone to demand my own way, and I usually whine and pout when I don't get it. My husband gently reminds me what is right, and serves me some more.

We met in Bible college, and were friends for two years before our courtship began. We both wanted me to finish college before we married, so we were engaged eighteen months.

Mistake #1: On our second date, I knew he wanted to kiss me. I let him. It went too far. He took the leader's role, as he should have, and cut off what was going on. That part wasn't the mistake, but what we allowed to happen that night laid the groundwork for the rest of our unmarried relationship.

Mistake #2: We should have married long before we actually did, but we stubbornly held to the belief that I couldn't handle learning to be a wife *and* being a graduating senior. Given our illustrious beginning, you can imagine what happened over the more than two years we were together before our wedding. While we were in BIBLE college. While he was training to become a PASTOR. While I was on COLLEGE STAFF in the women's dorm.

We never actually had intercourse, but did just about everything else. We thought that when we got married, even with all the other adjustments necessary, at least our s.ex life would be good.

Not so. When the novelty of freedom wore off about six months into our marriage, suddenly the fire went out. I became more and more repulsed by the idea, and I used every excuse you listed, and more. I *do* have some physical problems, but they got in the way, WAY more often than they should have. I *am* prone to headaches, but... You get the picture.

For a year or more, we sort-of ignored it. We didn't realize it was the problem it is. We still came together every now and again, but not like we should have. Finally, I realized this was a major problem. My husband had already realized it, but because he wanted to be compassionate and not make selfish-sounding (though perfectly reasonable!) demands (requests), he didn't deal with it, either.

I began seeking help, trying to assign what was going on to all sorts of excuses. Eventually I found a biblical counselor to whom I spoke once (she's actually a well-known author who graciously took the time to speak with me by phone), and for a time, it felt like the air cleared.

For a time.

But this continued to be a problem. I withheld myself from my husband for months at a time. I would eventually forget how long it had been, but he never did. I was ashamed, but not ashamed enough.

Just this year, after spending years looking for any kind of answer that would a.) place the responsibility squarely on something outside myself, and b.) magically fix the problem, I finally took the time to see CLEARLY that the only problem is selfishness. It was selfishness that led us to inappropriate and sinful physical contact before we married, and that same selfishness manifested itself in me as exactly the opposite problem after we married.

Due to culture, past abuse, other history, etc., I have a LOT of wrong thinking regarding this gift of God. My husband has graciously been doing a Bible study with me using various books written from a Biblical perspective that will help me change my thinking. All on my own (she says, proudly), I came up with a stack of 300 "coupons," basically enough for every day of the year minus "that time of the month." The act of giving him that stack was a conscious act of handing over authority to my body to the one it belongs to.

We still struggle in this area. I am still motivated more by self than by love for him. I used to say, "I love my husband; I hate s.ex." The latter may be true for any one of us at given seasons of our lives. BUT, if we claim to love our husbands, we must not selfishly deny them what is rightfully theirs, a wedding gift from GOD, upon the occasion of our marriages.

Ladies, please, if you struggle as I have, be Spirit-controlled, and love your husband as you say you do. If you don't struggle this way, but see yourself headed down that path, start now to change your thinking. Don't be ruled by self. I see now all the time I've wasted, how I dishonored the Lord, all the difficulty I brought to my marriage, all the pain I caused my husband.

And in his eyes, every time I look at him, I see reflected the amazing and infinite grace of God. A grace that is greater than all my sin.

*~Tamara~* said...

I agree with you. I also think it's important that as Christians we don't always address this to women specifically. I think the stereotype is that women are put off by sex or find it dirty or drudgery, but truthfully there are women out there who are just as deprived as men are. It's really important that we don't focus on just the women, but on whichever partner it is that is doing the "depriving."

In regard to it being the woman, I also think it is so very important for men to ask themselves WHY she is disinterested or consistently turning him away. Yes, she should be available to him sexually, of course. But there is generally a reason for it. If she is "too tired," why? If she is worn out from a recent pregnancy, why? Is she suffering with PPD? (I did, after my 3rd baby...it was awful, and this was one side effect). Has he met her other needs? If she has indeed "had kids crawling all over her" all day, then can he give her some time to herself, so she can regroup and restore herself? Can he help her with some evening chores, so that they both have free time so she can relax and not go from highchair-tray-scrubber to sex-goddess in 6.3 seconds? It's important to find out what the hangups are and address them, to the satisfaction of both people.

It's also extremely important that both spouses acknowledge that they are made completely differently. That should be celebrated, not seen as off-putting. Take the time required to "not deprive" your spouse in any way.

This is a sensitive topic among Christian women. I agree that it's accepted as "normal" to roll your eyes at your husband and push his hands away. It's just one more worldly mindset that I hate to see Christian women buying in to.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading the comments, and can relate to the pastor's wife. My husband and I participated in s.e.x before marriage. Now, after about 8 years in marriage, he doesn't even initiate the act. He has depression, and also has struggled with visual adultery on the internet. He may even have ED at the tender age of 40 (or it could be one of the many side-effects from the medication). So, basically, our intimacy stinks, to put it mildly. It gets tiresome to always initiate, and not complete the performance...

Sorry for possibly sharing too much...

LisaM said...

Interesting how, in such an "enlightened age", there are so many women who still struggle with this bit of submission. I sympathise with "pastor's wife" above, and with all those who really and truly do "feel tired" and as if this act becomes a drudgery sometimes. Most of us know that it's supposed to be a joy! but it just isn't. How frustrating that is!
Of course it is our responsibility to do what we can regardless of the man's actions, and of course it is his responsibility to dwell with his wife according to knowledge of her, in gentleness and self sacrifice. It seems to me, then, that this is something that every man and woman in marriage should talk about - really talk about, not just deal with privately - because it belongs to both people. He must care for her as Christ the church, and she must learn to submit to him. But if he won't talk, and won't do his duty (emotionally or otherwise), I have found that very often, as a child, I just have to obey "anyway" and trust that the Lord's will is done, and that good things will come from this, even if I can't see them this night. Very often, the good does come, and the joy returns. It seems a weak hope to hold onto when you're tired, physically and emotionally needy - but it is there. And the rewards are good.
Thank you for posting these thoughts for us.

Anonymous said...

I come from an abusive background. I was molested by my brother for 11 years. During my teen years, I slept with two other guys, during what I THOUGHT were serious relationships. Then I met my husband. We too, had sex before marriage. All of that was so wrong.

What a bad beginning. BUT, by the Lord's grace, He saved me. And then my husband. My husband has always been loving, and caring, and gentle. Because of the abuse sometimes I would start to cry during intercourse. I didn't like for him to watch me get undressed. He was patient. If I cried, he would stop, and just hold me, whispering how much he loves me, and that HE would NEVER hurt me.

We've been married over 15 years, and he is the love of my life. I've been able to let go of the garbage from my past. The abuse, and the mistakes. The Lord has helped us to grow as a couple, and in our relationship with Him.

I love the times of intimacy with my husband. It keeps getting better and better. I'm a size 12, and he treats me and looks at me as though I were a supermodel. We often pray just before making love, and very often right after. How can we not praise the Lord who gave us such a beautiful gift?

Dear Ladies, please seek the Lord on this matter. He can heal you. He desires for you to have an amazing relationship with your husband. Put him before your children. This is good and right. Ask the Lord to give you a physical desire for your husband. He needs you, and you need him!

Joy said...

What a thought provoking post Jess! Thank you.

I have been blessed in my marriage that our relationship has been open. With sex at first, there was a disconnect, as you describe...my thoughts on the matter were so confused, between what my parents drilled into me (sex is bad, evil) and the world (sex is good, all the time, everybody's doing it)... my husband realized that I was struggling with the whole subject, and he opened his heart to me about it. After that point, things changed drastically for me- I felt true intimacy with him for the first time.

I think one of the most important things that he has done for me in our intimate relationship is leaving the door of conversation open...I can say to him that I I am really struggling today, and he will listen- sometimes recognizes what I can't see...I am worn out from the kids, or there is something on my mind...and we talk. While we are talking, we are often cuddled together...holding hands...he has taught me that this is okay...that I don't have to "perform", and that being physically intimate does not always mean sex. It has made everything richer in our intimate relationship-his touch truly comforts.

I know that not everyone is so lucky in this regard, but I am so very thankful that God has blessed me with a husband that is kind and patient with me in this area.

sealjoy said...

In reading most of these posts, I am reminded at one of the biggest lies sold by the devil is that sex is sinful and dirty. And outside of marriage it is, and is something that seems fun and tempting and wonderful. But inside marriage it is not sin, but seems to fall short of the excitement of sin. But even when it is right, women are still under the stigma that sex is "dirty" and "wrong" and it makes it more a chore.

I too come from a background where I lost my virginity at 5 by a family member, was molested by a male babysitter when I was 6. When I got to be a teenager, I figured I couldn't loose what I didn't have. I had so many liaisons in my past I quit counting after 50. When I finanlly met my husband it started as they all did and we even lived together. Then the war happened and we both deployed and God found us both at the same time.

I had many demons to deal with due to my promiscuous past. And God dealt with me about my own pride in my past. I never thought We would be together because we went so wrong, and I never thought I could have a pure sex life if we did marry.

But God in his mercy helped us both remain pure towards each other during our separation, and eventual engagement. Even after coming home we remained pure and seeking God. So When We finally married and came together it was new and beautiful as God intended.

Sex in our marriage should not be a chore, it should not be done just because the man wants it. To just be an empty partner is actually depriving your husband of the true nature of the act.

God wants us to be as one, not just in body, but in mind, soul and heart as well.

The day preparation I mentioned above will help that. If you come together just because you have to or just because the Bible says, you cheat one another of the gift. With a happy heart, a hopeful soul, and a desiring mind this allows all of you to be available to your husband, but he also has to give all of himself.

Now we do have two beautiful children who don't stay in their beds, so we cherish the times we get to "play" as they are few and far between, but It is still just as much a gift.

God can do all things if we let him. Our minds and hearts have to change on how we view the act of sex in marriage.

Bless you all in Christ.


Jana said...

I have found, in our marriage, when I do not "withhold" myself from my husband, I never regret it. On the other hand, if I make the mistake of refusing (it's never a big deal, just in subtle ways he "knows" or "senses" I'm not "available"), I DO regret it. And this CYCLE is what causes even more distance or lack of emotional intimacy in our marriage. I do not feel like my husband's slave or toy. I have learned that, when I give myself selflessly to him, he gives himself selflessly to me, and we grow closer to each other in all aspects of our relationship. It's a win-win situation.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to comment anonymously. I'll try to come back later, so that we can get acquainted. Do you have any advice for when it's the other way around? When it's the wife who hears excuses like you listed?