Why do marriage partners—even men—sometimes lose interest in sex? Personally, I think the main culprit is sheer exhaustion. Tiredness and lack of exercise kill the sex drive. We become so stressed out and bone-tired that all we want is time alone and time for blessed sleep. Incessant busyness is the plague of our contemporary lifestyle, and it is greatly damaging to our physical intimacy as husbands and wives.
Of course there may be other reasons. These could include misconceptions about sex, past sexual abuse, guilt, anger, and even physical problems.
One of the most common reasons that believers may struggle with enjoyment of sex is the sense of guilt that arises from immoral sexual activity in their pasts. That is precisely why our good and loving God gave us His rules and commands for our protection. He understands very well that sex outside the marriage relationship is devastating to our very personhood.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul writes to a once licentious group of people to remind them that although we are sexual beings, God did not make the body for sex; rather, He made our bodies for Himself. Having said this, Paul then urges the Corinthians to flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a man commits, Paul tells them, is outside the body. But the immoral man sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:13-18). Unrestrained immorality and deviant sex acts can severely damage our capacity to enjoy sex with a lifelong partner as God intended.
For some people, sex awakens all manner of horrific or sickening memories. As a result, the very thought of someone touching us as others did in their disobedience causes us to want to run, to hide, to curl up in a ball where there will be no edges of our being exposed. If we were promiscuous before marriage—with our future mate or with someone else—we can carry a sense of uncleanness or bitterness into our marriages that shut down our normal responses and desires.
Is there a cure for such problems?
Thank God, there is! The Bible gives us the hope of a clean start, a fresh beginning. Healing and restoration are available to those who seek God’s face and obey His precepts.
Clean, restored, and made new
Did you realize that the Greek word for salvation, soteria, speaks of deliverance? When God saves us, He delivers us. And that deliverance is so complete that we are simply no longer what we used to be. In Romans 6:6, we learn that our old self, what we were before we were born again into God’s family, is dead.
The old us is gone. We’re brand new in Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, Paul says, “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
The problem comes when we don’t know, believe, or live in the light of the total deliverance God has given to us. When I live as if my old, dead-and-gone identity still exists—the one who was abused or the one who wittingly or unwittingly disobeyed God’s precepts in the sexual realm—then I am dragging another person into bed along with my spouse. And three’s a crowd! You cannot give your mate your full attention when you are preoccupied by past mistakes and illicit sexual experiences.
But what if I don’t feel like having sex?
There is no reason to refuse one another sexual gratification. Abstinence should only come by mutual agreement, and then only for a reasonable amount of time. The purpose for abstinence should be for extended prayer, period. Headaches, backaches, and being tired are not legitimate excuses, although out of love these, along with other reasons, should be considered.
You need to remember that there is nothing wrong with the raw sexual drive. God created us with desires and hormones! Therefore, if you deprive one another of God’s means of quenching sexual fire, you put your mate squarely into the path of temptation. And you will answer for that because you have sinned by disobeying God.
Because women are not usually as easily aroused, I can tell you there have been times when I have dearly wanted to say no. (Desire can flare up at the most inopportune times!) And there have been a few rare occasions when I have asked, “Do we really need to?” Which, translated, means, “Can you wait?”
But I can also tell you that in those rare incidents I found it hard to get to sleep afterward. Why? Because I was more concerned about myself than I was about my husband. I know what the Word of God says about dying to self, and I want to be all God wants me to be. So I have simply decided that I will honor this part of the marriage commitment and will keep it without resentment. I will give it my all, even when I don’t feel like it.
Think before you say no
Once you say no to your spouse, it is easier to say no the next time—and to continue to come up with excuses. It has been proven that the more you put off this intimate oneness, the easier it becomes and the less you desire it. It becomes a sad habit of life, a residual, recurrent infection insidiously draining the marriage of its vitality and strength. It robs us of a depth of intimacy we all need. And it wounds the one who was rejected. He or she can’t help feeling, “What’s wrong with me?” Sex affirms our masculinity and our femininity at the deepest level.
It’s apparent that in marriage, a good sex life increases your happiness. By the same token, happiness—satisfaction with life and with yourself—usually increases libido. It’s a cycle we don’t want to ignore, and one that we should do all we can to maintain. We need to work at the success of one another as a lover in the bedroom and as a valued person beyond the bedroom. Sometimes the most loving thing a wife can do when her husband is dealing with some sort of blow to his ego or self-worth is to become the aggressor in the bedroom. Sex with your mate can be a very valuable ministry—and that is how you need to see it at times.
When we marry we have a duty before God to meet our mate’s sexual needs (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). These needs should never be met in a way that demeans or devalues our mates. They are to be met pleasantly, submissively. Once I marry, my body is not “mine alone”; it belongs to my spouse. The husband has authority over his wife’s body and she over his.
But notice that even if you abstain it’s to be for only a little while to prevent immorality. Your sex drive is a gift from God, and if you cannot control yourself, then you need to get married. That is why Paul goes on to say in verse 9, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” The outlet is marriage—sex in marriage.
Kay Arthur and her husband, Jack, are the founders of Precept Ministries, which reaches people through “Precept upon Precept” Bible studies and Kay’s radio and television program, “Precepts for Life.” You can hear Kay talk more about how to have a marriage without regrets on a recent FamilyLife Today interview.
This article originally appeared on FamilyLife.com