(Warning: This article should be considered “not safe for children.”)
In this series, we’re working through the issues surrounding the common sexual sin of depriving one’s spouse. The first article established the biblical basis for considering this a sexual sin. The second article explored some of the reasons that this sin is so dangerous. Now, we’re going to begin to consider some common questions and special situations.
A common question about this issue is “does this mean I can never say, ‘no’?” This question could be answered in a couple of ways depending upon who is asking it. If the person asking the question is someone who habitually says no, then the above is not really the most honest way to phrase the question. A more honest way to phrase the question would be, “does this mean I can’t always say, ‘no’?” This questioner may not be looking for true guidance for obedience, but an excuse to justify habitual disobedience. To that questioner, we should suggest starting with a different question, one that begins with a desire to obey: “How can I change?” We’ll address that question later in the series.
To the person who is not in the habit of saying no, but who knows that there are times when saying yes is difficult because of health reasons, fatigue, or other circumstances, the question could be answered differently: Discuss this with your spouse. If your spouse realizes that the vast majority of the time, even when you’d rather not do it and even when you don’t feel well, you accommodate that desire, he or she should be willing to wait a few hours or so until you’re feeling better or until circumstances improve.
We should also note that “this isn’t the best time” or “can we wait until [fill in the blank]?” is not the same thing as “no.” All of us who are married, especially those with children, know that there are times that are simply inopportune. 1 Corinthians 7 does not give one spouse the right to demand immediate interaction from the other. Asking to wait until a more opportune time is perfectly reasonable. However, keep in mind that such an opportune time needs to be found quickly – if at all possible within hours, not days – otherwise, we’re losing the sense of 1 Corinthians 7, which teaches us that one reason for making this a priority is to avoid sexual temptation.
A related issue/question could be phrased in a number of different ways, but could be boiled down to this: “My spouse and I are just on very different schedules.” It’s quite common for work schedules to cause a situation where one spouse is exhausted when the other is not and vice versa. In some marriages it may not be due to work schedules, but simply that an early bird married a night owl. The result is that their respective times of sexual desire seldom coincide and frustration ensues.
What to do? First, let’s reject the lies that Hollywood and literature have sold us. One such lie is that fulfilling sexuality is inherently spontaneous. A closely related cousin is that fulfilling sexuality can only take place when both spouses desire it. We naturally infer from these statements that non-spontaneous sexuality is unfulfilling and therefore not good, and sexuality that derives from one non-amorous spouse seeking to serve an amorous spouse is unfulfilling and therefore not good. These are LIES. Lies, lies, lies.
Second, consider some counsel that from the world’s perspective is completely counter-intuitive: schedule it. I’m serious. Talk about when are the best times for you and your spouse to come together and plan on it. The things that people intentionally make time for usually end up getting done. The things that they do not plan for often do not. Other things crowd them out by using up all available time and energy.
If you think about your personal devotional life, you’ll see that this is true. If you do not intentionally set aside time to spend with the Lord, but instead wait until a spontaneous moment presents itself, you’ll likely go days, weeks, or months without cracking a bible or engaging in concentrated prayer. The same goes for many other activities in our lives.
If you find that one of you is always too tired, consider scheduling it. Communication is paramount. Find those times when fatigue is not such an issue and plan on it. If necessary, remove other things from your life or move your schedule around. Again, this is something that must be a priority. Let’s face it – there are a lot of things that we spend our time and energy on that are not commanded in Scripture. We cannot allow those things to crowd out the things that are commanded in Scripture. The sexual relationship in marriage is one of those things.
“Scheduling” doesn’t have to mean putting it on the calendar weeks ahead of time. It could mean that kind of foresight, but it could also mean telling your spouse a few hours in advance that you’d like to come together. There are numerous benefits to this kind of planning. First, it can help your spouse prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually. Second, it can allow you both to arrange for some uninterrupted time together. Third, it demonstrates that you both have made it a priority and therefore care for one another and for the Lord.
In the next article, we’ll consider other questions like, “Why should I do this for my spouse when my spouse does very little if anything for me?”