Intimate Deprivation

"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 back together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
~1 Corinthians 7:3-5~

As Beth Moore said today, when releasing her thoughts about the results from a survey of married Christian men,
"Now, let's just go ahead and get it over with. You knew to expect it. They want more intimacy. ... And don't act like they're making you do it either. God agrees with them on this one. He's the very one who inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us not to withhold ourselves from one another except for brief seasons of prayer. (Apparently, some of you have been in prayer a LONG TIME.) [Admin. note: Yes, I bolded that comment- it just cracks me up-- some women consistently withhold intimacy for long periods of time, and it's just not biblical- but Beth says it in such a disarming way-- I love that!]

My beloved Sisters, take it from a woman who's been married a long time and seen a whole lot of marriages go down the drain. PHYSICAL INTIMACY IS PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT TO A DECENT MARRIAGE. ... You can say "no" or act miserable and disinterested so many times that you teach your man not to want you. But you can't teach him not to want. My man is going to want. That's the way he's wired. SO, I want him to want ME. Want yours to want you, too."

I've written about this before... we ought not deprive our husbands of physical intimacy and delight! I don't know how else to say it. I am the only godly outlet for intimacy that my husband has- and if you are married, you are the only godly outlet for that area of your husband's life. We need to be not only willing- but excited- to meet this desire in our husbands!

I would be furious if my husband wanted to go long stretches of time without even talking to me, without being willing to hear my heart or know my thoughts. I would feel so hurt and saddened-- because communication is one of the important ways that we as women connect. And I know many of you may be there, married to a husband who does not communicate and connect with you in this important way, and that certainly is worth addressing with your husband, and perhaps a counselor.

But God knew this physical intimacy thing would be an issue for many married couples; He wrote it into His Word. Physical intimacy can be for our husbands, like communication is for us, one of the most important ways that we connect as couples. We need to hear, receive, and act on this theme from the Word- "the wife does not have authority over her own body" - "do not deprive". Just something to think about (and act on!).


Brenda said...

Great reminder. Thanks for being willing to tackle this topic. It's so true and we wives need to be reminded every now and then. Well-spoken.

Anonymous said...

I agree, with two caveats. There are some women who crave more physical intimacy than their husbands do. If husbands repeatedly reject their wives sexually, it can also hurt a marriage.

Also, I think some natural ebb and flow of desire has to be expected, and accommodated, by both partners. Some years ago I experienced a sudden and devastating bereavement in my immediate family. My sex drive plummeted to zero. I can't remember how many times my husband and I were physically intimate that year, but it may have been fewer than ten.

I am so grateful that he was supportive during that most difficult period of my life. He did not pressure me for physical intimacy I couldn't handle at that time.

In subsequent years our physical relationship became stronger than ever. He appreciated that I had been honest with him during the dark days instead of faking desire and pleasure.

Laurie B

Anonymous said...

What about when our husband's desire for intimacy is not "typical", and he only wants it once a week or even less, and we're the ones feeling deprived? Frankly, I want to tell women who complain about their DHs wanting sex "all the time" that they should consider themselves lucky to be so desired by their DHs and that their DHs make it known!

Jess said...

Laurie & anonymous,

It's true that there are women whose sex drive is greater than their husband's.

It is at that point that good communication is all the more valuable- because it is not at ALL like there isn't medical help for that. Just like there is medical help for hyper- and hypo- thyroidism, for example, there is medical help for a low libido. I know, I know- it's difficult to talk about, embarrassing for the husband and awkward for the wife... but having friends who have dealt with this, I know it can be done in a way that affirms love, respect, and attraction to the husband by his wife, and in a way that will make him *want* to resolve it with his doctor.

To me, that's why this passage starts out with a word to husbands and THEN moves on to wives. Men who are following God will want to give conjugal rights to their wives... but the reverse is also true... we as wives need to give ourselves delightfully to our husbands in this special way.

I have had several friends who have said that their own "no"'s came back to bite them. That they had said "no" so many times when they were younger and didn't desire it, that then, when the roles reversed, and their husbands were the ones with the declining sex drives, they were wanting it, and having to deal with their husbands' "nos".

The whole thrust of this passage is about not depriving. When you're the one that feels like depriving, it applies to you, whether you're the wife or the husband. And of course, there are exceptions, but lets focus on the main point... when you feel like depriving, there's a biblical reason not to.

Intimacy is biblical and praiseworthy!

Anna S said...


You bring up such an important topic. For now, I focus on purity and chastity, and this is how it will be until the blessed moment of our marriage. But once I'm married... I should prepare for that.

I know intimacy will be difficult for me. So very difficult. I've been abused before and developed a very unhealthy attitude about physical intimacy. I know I should work hard to change this, and study and pray about it long BEFORE we enter the holy union of marriage. I want my husband to want me, and I know this is just not going to happen if I say no too often or just 'give in' instead of returning his desire.

Anonymous said... I wish my dw would read this and actually HEAR what it says. Months upon months of deprivation makes for a very difficult thought life...not to mention a very difficult marriage. No amount of talking ever changes anything. Spurts of great intimacy interspersed with months of turning away.

For those who are reading this...NEVER do this to your spouse.

Thank you for broaching the subject.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I encourage you to seek some kind of professional help (either individual or group therapy) led by someone who is experienced in dealing with adult survivors of abuse. Fears of intimacy are a natural response, so you should not feel ashamed of them, but you should also know that they can be overcome.

I was able to overcome a different type of fear through sessions with a skilled and compassionate therapist, and my marriage has benefited from that therapy. A neutral third party can be very helpful.

I am not saying don't study and pray, because that is obviously a good idea. I just want to communicate that there is no shame in seeking professional help to deal with painful childhood experiences.

Laurie B

Isabella in the 21st Century said...

Okay, I hope this doesn't sound cold but if any reader is experiencing problems with mis-matched libidos in their marriages they may want to try this technique. (I'm perhaps thinking of Mr Anonymous here).

Sometimes regaining a regular level of sexual intimacy is difficult because couples have no routine of intimacy. Try organising a "date night" where both man and wife know that intimacy is on the menu. Make sure that this is a regular night (Saturday or Friday is always good), have a nice meal, or watch a movie, chat (no intense discussions), have fun and head to the bedroom.

This is a compromise but it means that the slightly unwilling partner gets used to making love again and the partner who wants intimacy knows that it's scheduled.

This helped me. I was so tired out with the children the thought of being in bed but NOT SLEEPING seemed terrible. However, after a few date nights I began to remember what I had been missing, if ya know what I mean! I also realise that spontaneity will return to our love lives eventually...perhaps when the children learn to sleep in on a weekend!

Jess said...

I too would encourage you to meet with a counselor, however long it takes, until some of those things are put in a more biblical perspective, and until you can face sexual intimacy with delightful anticipation.

I also have *very* difficult things in my past that might have hampered or completely wrecked marital intimacy had I not met with a counselor to put those things in the perspective of sinful man, a loving God, and a hope and a future that God has given to me. I think my own past hurts are one of the HUGE reasons you'll find me promoting sexual intimacy within marriage so fanatically. Because it truly is the BEST thing- I can say that fully! God gives us a beautiful and incredible gift with the thrills of intimacy. He made our bodies to enjoy physical sexual pleasure- and he made our hearts to enjoy intimacy within safe boundaries. It's a beautiful and praiseworthy thing within the fences God Himself has built!

Let me encourage you to take this time when you are engaged to find a biblical counselor who is skilled in discussing sexual abuse, and work through the pain to a place of freedom in Christ in this area of your life.

Grace and Peace to you, Anna. (And any other women struggling with the same things.)

MInTheGap said...

This was a great post, thanks for this.

Yes, it does cut both ways-- men shouldn't neglect their needs of physical affection as well as wifes their husbands.

Especially in this day with this over-sexualized culture I think it is more important than ever to give your relationship everything you can to strengthen it.

Anna S said...

Thank you for encouraging me, ladies. I haven't thought of getting professional help because I felt I'm making progress (physical intimacy seemed so scary and even disgusting before, I don't feel this way anymore), but maybe I should use this time prior to marriage to really work these issues out and give them a good airing. Fortunately my dear future husband knows what I've been through and is so compassionate and understanding.

Stephanie said...

We would love to see you guys before you go. Let us know when you're available. You're welcome to come here or we'll come there.

Anonymous said...

May I also humbly mention that either partner should look into reasons that sex does not seem desirable. I was married for 5 years and went to 4 different medical professionals before finding a doctor who believed me when I told him that sex was excruciatingly painful. Others had suggested that it was all in my mind. After a minor surgery for a somewhat uncommon condition, my husband and I can enjoy intimacy as God designed. I, too, am considering counseling. While I have never been one to deprive my husband, it is understandable that he learned to turn away to avoid hurting me. Habits are hard to break. To get to the healthy level of intimacy that we believe God desires, we might need some professional help. Other women and men should feel free to discuss with their doctors or counselors if there might be physical reasons behind avoidance of sex. If a doctor doesn't listen to you, find one who will!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jess,
This topic has been on my mind since I read a previous post on your blog about physical intamacy in marriage being the honour of the wife not her duty.

To me it is a duty. I know this is not the way it is meant to be. In my 6 years of marriage the journey we have been on has been amazing. At first i found it very painful and more often than not would end up in tears. Secondly i have next to no libido. The pain dissappeared after i had physio after the birth of my daughter. but still no libido. Currently i am on medication that no only decreases libido (that i dont have) but also stops my body from responding the way it should.
All in all i dread being intimate with my husband. I love him. No matter how gentle he is i end up feeling used. I try to make my mind up to give him a gift but the feeling of being used is overwhelming.
Yes i have a history of abuse. Yes i have received professional help. Yes i have received questionable advice.

If i feel emotionally connected to my DH i find it easier. but i dont feel that very often.

I dont know how i am supposed to apply that scripture to my life without feeling used. And if 'feeling used' is my lot in do i process that to stay sane. Not easy questions i know but i would appreciate your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with what you've written. My husband and I have the added understanding of saying no to ourselves instead of asking when we know the other person really would like to say no, as in being sick, unusually tired, etc; it's a matter of mutual respect in this case.

Coffee Wife said...

Sex is one of the best gifts I can give to my husband when he's had a long or stressful day! I am very greatful that I have something wonderful which I can give him when he really needs a boost! (And also at other times just because hehehe!) GOD BLESS!

Jess said...

Anonymous (I did get your other message for me, but I want to respond publicly so that others in your shoes can read this as well):

First off, I'm sorry to just now be getting back to you. As you may or may not know, we've just moved overseas, so these last 2 weeks have been very hectic and wild for me. I normally try to respond to comments like yours in a more timely way.

I don't have all the answers. Clearly. But here's what I would suggest, as it is what has helped me:

(1) Spend time in prayer mentally walking back through the abuse/rape/whatever in your mind... walk through every element. Talk it through with the Lord- telling Him all about your humiliation, shame, feelings of guilt (if you have those), whatever you feel and remember. And then, (you can do this in advance, or if you have a good knowledge of Scripture, you can do this at the time you are praying) cover each memory, each feeling, and each moment you can think of from those painful times in the TRUTH about you, as presented in Scripture (i.e., "I am wonderfully and fearfully made", "I was bought with a price", "I am chosen and beloved.", etc.) Passages like Psalm 51, Ephesians 1:3-14, Romans 6, Romans 8, and many others may be helpful in identifying who you are in CHRIST. To me, it was important to recognize that no matter my past hurts or sin, that when I am in Christ, I am a new creation. After hearing/learning about this new way of looking at myself, I was able to take those shame-filled guilt-inducing thoughts CAPTIVE in obedience to Christ (2 Cor 10:5), and instead begin believing what the BIBLE has to say about me instead of what our enemy, the deceiver and liar, had to say about me.

So essentially, walk back through, and talk with God about it, telling Him you're going to believe what HE says about that event/those events, rather than what you have believed all this time. If there is anything that needs to be confessed, confess it. And then begin to move forward, walking in the knowledge of God about your identity IN HIM (Colossians has a lot to say about us being IN Christ).

(2) Continue to walk in belief and forgiveness. As much as is possible, forgive the person who hurt and wronged you. Not for them. But out of obedience to God and for your own healing. This doesn't have to be done by ever seeing that person again- but forgive them from your heart.

(3) Begin praying for delight in your husband. Daydream about time with him. Talk about it. Read about it. Begin thinking of ways that you COULD enjoy it. Perhaps if it began differently... perhaps if you had time to warm up for it all day long... perhaps if it's scheduled it would help, or perhaps you would do better with spontaneity. Perhaps you could begin initiating. I don't have all the ideas or answers- but there are a LOT of books- free to read at Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million (or perhaps a bookstore in your area, if you don't know what that is), free to check out from the library, and some online resources as well. Be careful to weigh things against scripture, but you can always take the good and leave the bad - from ANY resource (even my blog!) :)

I would be willing to e-mail you more, but sorry to say, it may be a while before I have time. I would just encourage you to work through this- you'll be so glad to have come to a place of freedom and peace in this area. I can say that as a woman who has some level of experience of working through pain, shame, and guilt in this area of sexual intimacy.

I hope this has helped encourage you. I'd be interested to see if anyone else has things to share as well?

Blessings and may His freedom and peace be yours.

Charley said...


Thank you for opening up this subject, for it is extremely important. I just wrote a piece myself on the subject, and borrowed the Beth Moore quote from your post.

Feel free to look at it here

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