29 Days to Great Sex Day 28: Is Selfishness Undermining Intimacy?

Is Selfishness Robbing Your Marriage of IntimacyWe’re winding up our 29 Days of Great Sex, leading up to the release of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (update: Now Available!)

Throughout the month we’ve been looking at how to make sex great physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yesterday we were looking at how to experience true spiritual intimacy while making love: that deep knowing, that mutual experience, and that bonding. Most of our posts this month have been on that vein: ways to see sex more positively, to make it more fun, and to create greater intimacy.

But I can’t do the series justice if I don’t also have a post giving a warning. And there is one particular attitude that will make true intimacy virtually impossible to experience, and that’s selfishness. Two kinds of selfishness predominate in the sexual realm to rob sex of its spiritual intimacy: withholding sex and demanding unreasonable things.

Please, if you’re reading this with your spouse, read with an open mind and honestly ask yourself, “am I in one of these categories“? Often we don’t think we are. We think our spouse is to blame if we’re having problems in the bedroom. But don’t look at your spouse; truly look at your own attitude and ask yourself, am I being truly loving and giving with sex?

1. Withholding Sex

Many spouses are just heartbroken and at their wits’ end because they are married to people who think sex is a chore, and it is somehow wrong or dirty to desire it very much.

I’ve received so many emails this month from spouses of both genders who truly want a great sex life, but their spouse rarely consents to making love, and when they do, it often is with a “let’s get this over with” attitude. Or else they tell their spouse to go “take care of it yourself.”

Are you like that? Is sex a chore? Do you wish your spouse would just leave you alone?

Now, if you have a genuine problem, like sex is uncomfortable because you’re too tight, or you’re still getting over past sexual trauma, obviously sex is going to be difficult. And as long as you are actively working towards healing, I don’t think most spouses would be upset. But if you are saying, “this is the way I’ll always be, and he or she should just get used to it“, then you’re not being fair.

It is not God’s will for you that you have a rotten sex life. God created you to have a vibrant, intimate, passionate, sex life. If you do not have that in your marriage, then ask yourself, “what can I do to create one?”, because robbing your spouse of that kind of intimacy is not fair.

Maybe you have low testosterone, and you have an abnormally low sex drive (both men and women can suffer from this). That’s okay. Just get your testosterone levels checked. Maybe you have some sexual issues, like erectile dysfunction. That’s okay, too. Just get it looked at. It is not fair to your spouse to ignore a problem when that problem is robbing you both of intimacy.

And that’s really what I want you to understand. You are not just robbing your spouse of sex–though you are doing that. You are not just robbing your spouse of sexual release–though you are doing that, too. You are first and foremost robbing your spouse of that true spiritual intimacy that sex was designed to forge between you. You are robbing your spouse of that connection, and that’s something that is such a deep need for all of us. And you are robbing yourself of that, too.

So stop seeing it in terms of simple sexual release, and start seeing it in terms of intimacy. Are you doing everything you can to experience real intimacy in your marriage? If you aren’t, then perhaps you need to commit more to embracing all that God designed sex to be, and to figuring out how it can actually be  wonderful in your marriage.

2. Demanding Unreasonable Things

The other group that is diminishing spiritual intimacy are those who see sex mostly in terms of how they can get the most sexual release.

Sex is supposed to be a mutual, shared experience. That’s what part of the spiritual connection is. That doesn’t mean that you never do anything “just for him” or that he never does something “just for her”; those can all be part of play. But these things should never take over, or eclipse, vaginal intercouse, or else you lose that spiritual intimacy because it is not a mutual experience.

I’ve received a ton of emails this month, and one of the more common themes is along the lines of “my husband would prefer that I just help him to climax another way”. That really is quite selfish. One of the reasons that people prefer other kind of release is because they can concentrate on their own pleasure and don’t have to think of anyone else at all. But then you’re not “getting lost” in another person. You’re not “connecting”; you’re just using. And it’s not right.

Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with play every now and then; but that play should be part of a healthy relationship where you’re both also experiencing pleasure through intercourse. If the play is taking over, then sex isn’t mutual; it’s almost like you’re having parallel experiences.

If there are health reasons, of course, where this must be the case, that’s an entirely different story, and you can both make an effort to involve the other person by telling them that you love them, by trying to pleasure them at the same time, or whatever. But in general these emails are coming from two healthy people, where one just prefers a shortcut rather than intercourse. That needs to stop.

If you are insisting that your spouse bring you to sexual release without vaginal intercourse on a regular basis, then you are not looking for spiritual intimacy through sex. You are seeing sex solely through the physical prism, and you are diminishing what sex is supposed to be. Again, there’s nothing wrong with occasional play, but the focus should always be on a shared experience. If you are insisting on things which bring your spouse no real pleasure, then you are being selfish.

Similarly, though we have freedom in bed to do many things, that does not mean that couples MUST do those things. Changing positions is great. Really becoming intimate with all of your spouse’s body is wonderful. Insisting on *n*l sex is a horrible violation of marriage. (sorry about the asterisks, but I’m trying to get around the search engine labelling me as something that I’m not). I’m not saying that it’s necessarily sinful, since I personally don’t believe the Bible addresses it in marriage. But it is painful. It does have medical repercussions. And it is not pleasurable to the woman.

Why in the world would anyone risk losing the beautiful intimacy that can come from sex by insisting that his wife give him this–and being bitter and disappointed when he doesn’t get it?

Do you want intimacy, or do you want sex to be solely about the physical? If your spouse is making love frequently and with passion, be grateful. Don’t fixate on certain sexual acts, and how you would prefer them. If you do that, you’re making sex into something which is not mutual, but which is instead about self-gratification. That is totally the opposite of what God designed sex to be.

Let me end on this: God made sex to connect us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. When I conducted the research for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found (as other surveys have found before me) that Christians are the most likely to really enjoy sex, and it’s because we experience this threefold intimacy. It isn’t just about the physical, the way it is in our culture, because we have the commitment and the relationship, too. And we understand that it’s a beautiful gift from God. When all three go together, sex is stupendous.

Do you want stupendous sex, or do you want pornographic sex? God is calling us to make sex holy–and that means that sex will be passionate, and beautiful, and exciting, because God is passionate, and beautiful, and exciting. Are you going to embrace that, or are you going to be selfish? If you do the latter, you virtually guarantee that you will never experience the true intensity of beautiful sex.

Great Sex Challenge 28: If you believe that you might fall into one of these categories–either withholding or demanding–please pray about it. Talk to your spouse about it. Apologize to your spouse. And share with them your dream of achieving a truly intimate and exciting sex life.

Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

31 Days to Great Sex
New! This 29 Days to Great Sex series has been turned into an ebook, the 31 Days to Great Sex (only $4.99!)

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29 Days to Great Sex:

Day 1: The Act of Marriage
Day 2: Starting Fresh
Day 3: Loving the Skin You’re In
Day 4: Pucker Up!
Day 5: Reawaken Desire
Day 6: Why Your Hubby Wants You!
Day 7: Moving in the Right Direction
Day 8: 14 Ways to Play as a Couple
Day 9: Prepare for Sex throughout the Day
Day 10:16 Ways to Flirt with Your Husband
Day 11: How to Find Your Hubby Attractive
Day 12: If you’re Having a Hard Time with these Challenges
Day 13: Getting Your Head in the Game
Day 14: What if You’re Not “In the Mood”?
Day 15: What is Foreplay?
Day 16: How to Orgasm
Day 17: The Pleasure Center
Day 18: Foreplay Can Be for Him, Too!
Day 19: How to Come Alive Again
Day 20: Deciding on Boundaries
Day 21: 5 Ways to Spice Things Up
Day 22: How Often is Enough?
Day 23: Quickies Are Great!
Day 24: Initiate, Baby!
Day 25: Sex Once Kids Come
Day 26: Rebuilding Your Sex Life
Day 27: Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy when you Make Love

If you’ve enjoyed this series, please share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google Plus below! Thank you!

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  1. Once I became pregnant with my first child, my energy and libido went out the window. I am ashamed to admit that I became selfish, and it did seem like a chore. Usually around the time that my babies turned 1, I would start to feel like a human again and became more interested in sex, but then would quickly become pregnant again.
    Fast forward to the birth of my third child, when my “older” children were 2 and 3, and I was just exhausted. That was when my marriage fell apart, and my perspective on most everything in my life changed. I wish I could go back and handle things a lot differently, but I can’t. What I can do now is treat my husband the way I should have been treating him all along. I can’t believe that our relationship is better now, in all areas, than it was right after we were married and before we had children, but it is because we both have chosen to have a more Godly perspective in everything.
    Megan Elzey recently posted…From my kitchenMy Profile

  2. My Husband and I have a pretty good sex life. Most Of the suggestions you offer we already do. The only problem we have is a spiritual connection. I am a Believer, my Sweetheart is not. For him, sex is physical. Occasionally it is emotional, but that its rare. I’m not really sure what to ask, but any advice is appreciated.

    • A., I think even if your husband isn’t a believer, you can still experience a “spiritual intimacy”, because you have both committed to one another, and that commitment is joined by God, whether he realizes it or not. You can’t do all the suggestions from yesterday (like praying together), but you can tell each other you love each other. You can look in his eyes. You can spend time just touching, and being naked. And you’ll feel a very profound intimacy that goes beyond just physical pleasure. It’s a joining of who you are. Is it more meaningful if you’re both believers? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen if you’re not believers, because that is what marriage is: a commitment of your spirits and souls to be joined, even if he doesn’t understand it in the same way you do. I know this must be lonely for you. I hope that you can experience some of that profound oneness.

  3. Hi Shelia,
    I’ve just discovered your blog (yay Pinterest) and ministry and I’m so greatful. There is a huge need for these kinds of resources in the Body of Christ! And we are kindred spirits…I”m a part of women’s ministry that does events called “Shameless” Where we have a panel and allow women to ask any questions on the topic of Sex and intimacy, and then we deal in other sessions with issues like shame and forgiveness. God is moving, but I’m realizing too how much brokenness exists. It is truly heart breaking, and I’ve never been more thankful for my husband. The issue of selfisness you brought up in this post is something I’m becoming more aware of and it’s very sad. We are praying for God to heal this brokeness. I would also recommend healthy balanced counseling for those who are really stuck. Thanks again for all you are doing. May God continue to enlarge your spear of influence as this is such a great need. :)

    • Absolutely, Pam. If you are really stuck, get some counselling. The problem is that so often only one spouse wants to/is willing to go. So I just pray that people will take these words to heart and really examine themselves: am I being selfish?

      I love the title of your ministry: Shameless! That’s great. And shame is such a HUGE issue. I dealt with it more in the first week of the series, but I am so convinced that if people just understood what God created sex for, that so much of that shame would evaporate. It makes me sad how many people allow themselves to listen to lies.

  4. I’ve really enjoyed this series & can’t believe the month is over! It went too fast!!

    • Thanks, Kelly! I’m so glad you liked it. I’m going to publish an ebook called “31 days to Great sex” in a little while that will be more for couples, and not just for women, so stick around for that announcement. And I’m not going anywhere! The series is over, but I’ll still be blogging about all this stuff for the foreseeable future.

  5. Excellent topic in this post. I’ve only recently discovered your blog, through this series, and other blogs on Christian marriage and sex, and I have to say I’ve been taken aback by some of the comments. There is a lot of desperation and anger around this topic. And it seems a lot of selfishness comes out with that! To me, the one who wants more sex is going to have to think of giving, giving, giving until perhaps the intimacy they so long for begins to happen. Far better to give in this instance than to just demand the taking! I understand sex in marriage is both a duty and a privilege, and we should be able to expect it from our spouse, but there needs to be a better way to expect than to demand or sulk when it’s not happening. I recently saw a quote from William Shakespeare that I feel to be true: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” That might be something to ponder when thinking of your own expectations, the expectations others place on you that you have a hard time meeting, and this topic of selfishness in sex and marriage. I don’t have any wisdom, but I’m doing the pondering myself.
    lmz recently posted…13 FebruaryMy Profile

  6. Hi Sheila,
    I totally agree to the point of mutual understanding like you said in the line – Sex is supposed to be a mutual, shared experience. I believe that mutual understanding between the couple will help them achieve true spiritual intimacy. Me and my wife have realized it at an early stage of our relationship and this is the main reason which I believe for our everlasting relationship.

  7. Sheila, just wanted you to know that I gave my husband this “29 day challenge” as a gift for Val-Day. We are just getting started and already, the Lord is bringing up the issues that have got in our way and helping us to work through them. We’ve been married 16 years and have lots of baggage to deal with. Thanks for all the help. I look forward to the more exciting and practical days of this challenge :)

    I see that your finale contest will be on FB and Twitter, but b/c of our stand to maintain relational purity in our marriage, we had to get off of FB years ago. Is there any way we could be entered without being on FB or Twitter?

    • Sure, Tonja! I’ll email you and we’ll figure it out. I appreciate the boundaries you’ve set up and do want to help you honour them!

  8. Thanks so much for doing this series!! I can’t wait to get my copy of your book!!

  9. I had to laugh…I used that very same photo on my blog post today on unity in marriage!! Great post.
    Kate @ Teaching What is Good recently posted…What price for unityMy Profile

  10. Hi Sheila! So nice to meet you through your great blog. I LOVE your 29 Days to Great Sex and I know my hubby will too. Since sex is on the brain for our hubbies most of the time, it’s great to have blogs like yours (and your book) to turn to – to help us think about sex more often too!

    It’s easy to be selfish in marriage – comes so naturally! Thanks for helping us pause and recognize our selfishness and seek to serve our husbands in a way that woudl mean a lot to them. And to us!

    Pam Farrel is my mentor. I’m also an author and my book 31 Days to a Happy Husband (Harvest House, August 2012)would correlate well with your new book!

    • Wonderful to meet you, Arlene, and congratulations on your book! Let me know when it comes out and maybe you can guest post! Just send me an email.

  11. Our sex life is in nowhere land. It doesn’t exist period ! We last had sex on our wedding night and that was 45 years ago. Also love, intimacy, togetherness, passion never existed. After the I DO’s were done he went right back to work on the midnight shift, I had a day job, then the lowest thing he did was move down to our basement where he has been all these years. We only slept together once. I made the statement that a real marriage isn’t suppose to be this way. He said I don’t care this is the way I want it. Were friends only nothing more. As far as he was concerned I could burn our marriage license..I’ve been lonely, depressed, angry and confused. I really don’t know what happened. Hes not gay or into porn, he is a loner. Has no friends, no communication with the outside world, just works in his shop and on his old car.

    • Amy, I’m so sorry. Did you ever try to get anyone else to talk to him? And did you have any inkling of this before you were married? It sounds as if he chose to separate by moving down to the basement. That’s not a marriage. He obviously has some real psychological problems, but did you ever do anything to try to make him confront them?

      I don’t see how you could stand it! You must be so lonely and so depressed. That would be totally natural. I’d advise really sitting down with a credible Christian counsellor and ask what you should do in this situation, because it sounds like you both really need some help. Nobody should have to live through that.

      • Its been awhile since I’ve written, and things haven’t changed really at all. I invited the pastor from my church over to talk to him. They talked for a couple of hours and the out come was he prefered to be who he is and nothing more. He was to old and set in his selfish ways to try and patch things up. As far as before we were married well he was kind of standoffish. I thought it might be that he was shy. But we held hands and kissed and at the time he made me feel good. He would never agree to have any psychological help, in his world every thing is fine. For the last week or so I hadn’t seen him, he has a big heated garage out back and he has been out there all week. Far away enough so he can be alone.

  12. Not to start a debate, I’ve been reading through your challenges before I decided one way or another to buy your book, when something took me by surprise. I really have liked the way you try to show what is and isn’t in the Bible and from there let couples figure out what is right for them; however, I wasn’t too fond of your opinion on *n*l sex. Just because either you and/or your spouse think it to be gross and you find it painful does not mean every woman does. I do not enjoy it but I know some of my friends truly do, their reasons are there own bodies responses to it but to say it is gross or painful to all women could make some women embarrassed of something that is never mentioned in the Bible, many women have insecurities with sex without someone’s plain opinion making them feel bad. Other than that, I like your challenge and I’m glad I read through it!

    • Chelsea says:

      Kayla, I had the exact same thought when I read that part. It would be nice to see a revision or side note. Anyway, I look forward to reading more of the series! I have health issues, so sex can sometimes be limited between my husband and me, but altogether I think we’ve managed well so far. I’m always up for learning something new, though!

  13. Hi, I don’t normally post comments online, but I really enjoyed your insight on this topic! I am in a committed relationship with the man of my dreams, but we are. Not married yet. I realized for a period of time in our relationship I have not been excited about having sex and when we did it was kinda a get this over with attitude! I know now that this was a result of not getting the love I needed from him in other ares! He didn’t make me feel wanted or desirable! We were rarely having a decent conversation with one another I stopped feeling like he was attracted to me!! All I needed was for him to talk to me and kiss me and make me feel wanted! I found out during this time that he was texting another woman who he had known for awhile. And that they were sending pictures of body parts back and forth along with some messages! I found out that he was doing this when I was away like at work or visiting family. This hurt me and I felt betrayed! When I confronted him about it he said he would do that anymore and that it was wrong for him to that and that it didn’t mean anything to him that it was just fun kinda like a dare! We have since talked about everything and I told him how I felt about not feeling wanted and us not talking and in that area he is putting in good effort to communicate with me more! My question though is how do you get over the hurt and trust that he really is not texting this girl or that he will not text her in the future! I feel like this can effect our sex life if I don’t some how work it out! Keep in mind he is not an abstract thinker everything is pretty concrete with him! I now understand my role in perhaps why he went to this other girl but when I talk to him and ask if I’m giving him what he needs he just says yes with a smile and goes on! I would appreciate any advice you could give!

    Thanks for the guide it’s truly motivating and instrumental!


    • Hi LC,

      Thanks for your comment, and it does sound like you’ve been through the wringer. And what I’m going to say is going to sound harsh. But I’m just wondering why you’re with this man? He’s sexting with another woman and not really showing real intimacy towards you. This doesn’t sound like a great relationship.

      I write this blog primarily for married women, and so many women here are heartbroken because they’re married and their husbands use porn or text other women. They saw the signs but they ignored them before they were married.

      You have the chance to start over and find someone who will treat you well–and I’d suggest finding someone who will love you for you, not just for what you can do for him. Consider saving sex until a real commitment, honestly.

      But that’s just my two cents!

  14. I have gotten over the demanding but every time I turn around my husband has shared some facebook picture that isnt bad but it comes from a page that is posting other sexually material of woman. He has been confronted over porn and soft porn. I am trying to trust him but I keep getting offended and hurt by this. I am praying hard. I dont think its ok to proclaim Christianity and post stuff supporting sexual immorality while posting the word of God. Im tired of telling him this and tired of him not respecting our marriage. I want to just shut him out but I love God and want to be all He created me to be as a wife.

  15. Just so I don’t inadvertently misinterpret what you are trying to convey, I have a question. Are you saying that even oral sex is of lesser importance than vaginal intercourse in the context of sexual intimacy?

    • Yes, absolutely. Oral sex should not replace vaginal intercourse on the whole (spicing things up or individual encounters is obviously fine, but if it’s to a point where, absent health issues or pain issues, one spouse is wanting only oral sex and not actual intercourse, that’s likely a problem).

      • Not trying to debate, but my wife has never enjoyed vaginal intercourse. She finds it uncomfortable, and now that she’s post-menopausal, it’s downright painful. However, through direct clitoral stimulation, whether manually or orally, she is *always* orgasmic, and we mutually enjoy our sexual times together even without painful intercourse. I also find my own orgasms are more intense (and, therefore, more intimate) using means other than vaginal intercourse. I would hate to make my wife feel as if our intimacy (which we both approve without selfish demands) is somehow “less” because our mutual pleasure isn’t caused vaginally.

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.


  1. […] 26: Rebuilding Your Sex Life Day 27: Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy when You Make Love Day 28: Overcoming Selfishness Day 29: A Contest & a […]

  2. […] quick answer would be, “No.” Sex is supposed to be mutual. It isn’t supposed to be selfish. But that being said, here are just a few thoughts to help you figure this out in your particular […]

  3. […] could be fixating on a particular thing he wants to try, and he’s so fixated on that that until he gets it he won’t be satisfied. Or he could […]

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