(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. So far, we’ve established that this is indeed a sin. We’ve also considered why it is so dangerous. And last time we began to look at some of the most common questions raised about this issue. In this article, we’ll continue with common questions.
“But my spouse never meets my needs.” “Why should I do this for my spouse when my spouse almost never does anything for me?” There could be many more ways of stating the same sentiment, but the basic idea is, “I don’t want to be the only one giving in this relationship.” If you feel that way, you’re not weird. Nobody wants to be the only one serving in a given relationship. But just because we all feel that way doesn’t mean that it can keep us from doing what is right.
It’s possible that this question arises from yet another worldly lie about marriage and sexuality. The lie says, “Sex is what I give in return for what I get.” Surprisingly, there are many "Christian" marriage books that perpetuate this idea of "give in order to get." But remember we have to train ourselves to spot and reject these lies. We must replace them with the truth of the Word. We’ve already noted that the Bible’s design for marriage is that it is not about self-fulfillment, but about serving someone else. When we apply that principle to the sexual relationship, we realize that sex is not “what I give in return for what I get,” but rather it is simply “what I give.”
There is a great country song from the 1990’s by Diamond Rio called “Meet in the Middle.” It was back when country music wasn’t embarrassed to sound like country music. It was a simpler time. Anyway, the chorus is super catchy and the words are memorable:
I start walkin’ your way
You start walkin’ mine
We meet in the middle
‘Neath that old Georgia Pine
We gain a lot of ground
When we both give a little
Ain’t no road to long
When we meet in the middle.
The idea is that their relationship works because they know how to meet in the middle. I love that song…but it’s terrible relationship advice, biblically-speaking. The whole 50/50 relationship idea is dead wrong, and yet it’s unquestioned in the minds of many Christians.
Did Jesus meet His bride half way, pouring out half His blood and then saying, “good luck”? Did Paul exhort husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave half of Himself up for her? Does the church submit to Christ 50% of the time? Does Paul exhort wives to submit to their husbands in half of the matters that come up? Of course, not. The husband is to follow Christ’s example of pouring himself out. Complete service. And the wife is to follow the example of the church by submitting in all things (Eph 5:22-27).
The biblical picture of marriage is one of both spouses giving 100% regardless of what they are receiving. If you take a close look at all the commands given to husbands and wives in the Scriptures, including those we’ve referred to repeatedly in this series (1 Cor 7 and Eph 5), you’ll not find any commands conditioned upon the obedience of the other spouse. In other words, the Holy Spirit did not move the apostle to write, “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church…as long as they are submitting to you and respecting you.” In 1 Cor 7, the command to meet the sexual needs of the spouse is not tagged with the condition, “if your spouse is meeting your needs, too. Otherwise, hold out on them.”
No, you and I are called to obey the Lord no matter what our spouses do. We are commanded by our God to give all even if our spouses give none.
And it appears that the Lord has given us the perfect tool to help us have the right frame of mind in that kind of situation. To the slave serving an unjust master, Paul writes, render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man… (Eph 6:7). Likewise, to wives he writes, wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph 5:22). In Col 3:17, we’re told to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…. It is right for us to think of service to our spouses as ultimately service to the Lord. This can make it easier to serve a spouse who is disobedient and uncaring.
But we should also recognize that love seeks the highest good of another. Service flows out of true love. And so serving our spouses, whether we are receiving anything or not, when we are making the conscious decision to love them, can be a source of joy and fulfillment. There is great joy in giving, not just receiving.
A somewhat related question could be stated this way: “There is no closeness in other parts of our relationship, so that makes our sexual relationship feel something like a business transaction. What should I do?”
First, talk to your spouse. Share your thoughts on the issue. Be sure to convey that this is not an ultimatum regarding the sexual relationship – you are committed to serving your spouse in that way no matter what. But express that you want to deepen the intimacy of your relationship by broadening it to encompass every part of your lives.
Second, formulate a plan together. “What can we do to grow closer?” Make it a priority to spend time together away from electronic devices and other distractions. If you have young kids, get a sitter regularly, and go out on dates. If you can’t afford a sitter, make a deal with another young couple to swap sitting services so that both couples can go out. Talk about meaningful things: share your present concerns and future hopes. Talk about spiritual matters. Pray together. Do family devotions. In short, remove the meaningless things that are getting in between you and replace them with opportunities for meaningful interaction.
Next time, we’ll talk about what to do if you struggle with this sin and you want to change.