What Does 1 Corinthians 7:5–Do Not Deprive Each Other–Really Mean?

Do Not Deprive--A 3 part series on 1 Corinthians 7:51 Corinthians 7:5. That’s a sticky verse. And today we’re going to start a three-part series on what Paul’s trying to say in 1 Corinthians 7!

The most common conflict when it comes to sex in marriage is about frequency: one spouse tends to want more sex than the other, and this leads to the higher-libido spouse feeling unloved. Why doesn’t my wife want to show me love? Why doesn’t my husband desire me? Then this starts a vicious circle where the other spouse thinks, “is that all they want from me? Am I just an object?” And it goes downhill from there.

I’m not trying to answer the question how often should married couples have sex–I tackled that here–I want to look at the broader issues so that we can come to that conclusion ourselves, as a couple. So let’s dive in.

Often in Christian circles, when things start spiraling downward about this frequency of sex issue, someone will pull out 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, which says:

 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (NIV)

I’d like to spend a few posts this week looking at what 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 really means.

Let me start by sharing some stories with you. One woman wrote me last week, saying,

Last week my husband was away on business for five days. We usually have sex about 4 times a week. After he came home and we had the kids in bed, we started kissing and I [began to make love to him]. He stopped, because he was upset that I wanted just sex, and didn’t want to [please him in other ways first]. I was only interested in what would make me feel good, and not interested in how he liked to feel good.

This woman, who is making love with frequency with her husband, has been told that she is never good enough because she doesn’t like the sex acts that he does. And she isn’t supposed to deprive him, he says.

In the comments to my post on “Sex Should be Mutual“, one man wrote this, in response to my saying that men need to be sensitive when a wife is recovering from childbirth or is having our periods:

Paul tells us “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Cor 7:5)

The period of abstinence after pregnancy and during the wife’s period is not by mutual agreement so that the couple can devote themselves to prayer. It is being forced on us men because we are being told to give our wives a break.

Since the husband did not agree to stop having sex, the wife can’t either, he claims.

And that’s my point of contention today: too often these verses are used as weapons, which makes sex into simply an obligation. Here’s how I replied to this man:

God does not ask us to love Him without first loving us. It’s mutual. And sex should be mutual, too. God created it for women as much as for men. And when we start saying, “men need sex and can’t last five days without it, so women need to service him,” we make sex into something very transactionally based and obligation based.

That is no fun.

I believe that most things in the Christian life are not cut and dry.

We live in constant tension, and indeed, the Bible is in tension. Is it grace or works? Is it justice or mercy? Is it free will or predestination? None of these things has easy answers; the truth is always found in the middle, after struggling. And that struggling is important, in and of itself. We’re supposed to wrestle with God on the hard questions.

And so I believe that these verses include some wrestling. So today I’m going to wrestle with one side of it, and then I’ll wrestle with the other tomorrow before coming to a conclusion on Wednesday about what the Do Not Deprive verses mean in their complete context..

Do Not Deprive Each Other? What Does that Mean?First, let’s note what this verse does not say. Paul did not write:

Do not refuse one another, except by mutual consent and for a time…

He wrote do not deprive.

Deprive is not the same as refuse. I believe many people interpret this verse to mean refuse. Are women obligated to have sex every time a man wants it? Are we ever allowed to refuse?

Well, let’s look more closely at deprive.

If I were to say to you, “do not deprive your child of good food,” what am I implying? I’m saying that your child should get the food that is commonly recognized for good health: three healthy meals a day, with some snacks. I am not saying that every time your child pulls at your leg and says, “Mommy, can I have a bag of cheetos?” that you have to say yes. You are not depriving your child of good food by refusing a request for Cheetos.

Deprive implies that there is a level of sexual activity that is necessary for a healthy marriage. And, to extend the food analogy a little bit, this doesn’t mean that we should be aiming for the minimum, either: for instance, life in concentration camps proved that you could keep people alive with one meal a day at 800 calories. But that is NOT healthy.

So we shouldn’t be aiming for the minimum; we should realize that there is a level where two people can feel intimate and close, and that is likely quite frequently.

But it does not mean that it is every single time a person wants sex.

The fact that the preceding verses in 1 Corinthians 7 say that the husband’s body is the wife’s, and the wife’s body is the husband’s, implies that one person cannot and must not force himself or herself onto the other person. And by force I’m not talking about just physical force. There’s emotional blackmail, there’s shutting down, there’s telling someone, “you’re just not good enough”. There’s acting like the man in the first email, who was upset because his wife preferred mutual intercourse to the racier things that he wanted instead. And he took it out on her.

Let’s assume that it’s the wife with the lower libido for a minute (though it certainly isn’t always) and look at it this way:

If her husband’s body belongs to her, then she has the ability to also say, “I do not want you using your body sexually right now with me.”

If she feels sick, or is really sad, or is exhausted, then her having ownership of his body also means that she can say, “I just can’t right now” without needing to feel guilty–if she is at the same time not depriving him.

I believe that the admonition “do not deprive each other” refers to the relationship as a whole, not to each individual moment.

So if, in the relationship as a whole, you are having regular and frequent sex, then if one of you says, “not tonight”, that is not depriving. That is simply refusing for right now.

There are many commenters who have said that a wife doesn’t have the right to refuse according to this verse, because she would be depriving him. To this I would print this comment from reader Kelly:

Yep, some of the comments you read by men on these marriage websites are precisely why Christian women are beginning to advise each other not to risk marrying a Christian man! (I’m not kidding). Look, guys, here’s a quick lesson in the blindingly obvious: there’s no quicker way to make sex unappealing to your wife than by demanding it, regardless of how she feels. No better way of making yourself unattractive and frankly repellent than by sexual coercion. No no effective way of losing your wife’s respect – she wants a real man, not some oaf (because if you can enjoy sex knowing the other person isn’t enjoying it, there’s something very wrong with you). And really, no one past the age of 14 should need telling that. Of COURSE, a sexless marriage has problems that need addressing. Of COURSE you should ask if you want more/different sex to be happy. Of COURSE you can explain to her why sexual rejection hurts. But here’s a little clue (again from the ‘stating the obvious’ files): why do I enjoy nothing more than making love with my husband? Why can I not keep my hands off him? Why am I keen to give him pleasure even if I’m occasionally not in the mood or unable to participate myself? Because, while making it obvious he finds me desirable, he also wouldn’t WANT to have sex with me unless I was an enthusiastic participant. Because he can’t stand the idea of it being a one-way experience.

And I would echo what Kelly said at the beginning of her comment: in conversations with men, I have often found that it is the non-Christian men who are more giving and tolerant of their wives than the Christian men. Too many Christian men think they have the right to demand sex whenever and wherever because of this verse. And it is not true. That is ignoring the mutuality of the whole context of that passage, and I think distorts what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 7:5.

There is a difference between refusing occasionally and depriving someone habitually.

Tomorrow I’ll look at it from the other side–our obligation to have regular and frequent sex–and then I’ll try to put forward a balanced approach.

For now, though, what are your initial thoughts? Have you ever heard this verse used as a weapon?

Sheila is the author of The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex.

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  1. Something related that I’ve been thinking about lately, is how pretty much every Christian marriage blog out there makes sex into a purely physical thing, with a slight mention of the emotional and spiritual side of things (which seems to be an unimportant afterthought in many cases). It’s really starting to bother me.

    I never turn my husband down, and I genuinely want to make love to him frequently because I feel connected to him emotionally and spiritually. But I see on a regular basis how selfless he is, how sex to him is more than just the physical – to him, it’s never been just about sex. It’s about me, it’s about us. I feel cherished by him because I know he’s not just concerned about his next “fix.”

    So yes, I have held to and mentioned that Bible verse in the past as well, but I think that many Christian marriage bloggers have become so obsessed with sex as something that they have (perhaps unknowingly) begun to approach it as mainly physical, that they have basically cast aside the most important and fulfilling aspect of it.

    We have to remember what marital intimacy is really about, and that it’s so much more than the physical act of sex. Yes, that is important, and it is wonderful – but it means nothing if you don’t nurture a true connection in your marriage, and truly seek to love one another and respect one another in a godly way.

    I agree that there is a big difference between refusing and depriving.
    Jenny recently posted…How do you meet your spouse’s needs?My Profile

    • As I said, yesterday when I read this it brought to mind something that I’ve been thinking about lately – that is, the way a lot of Christians seem to approach sex. I talked to my husband about it in-depth, and collaborated with him to write a blog post about how perhaps Christians are bringing the world’s carnality into their marriages without even realizing it. I’ve been guilty of this, too! I think it’s time to discard of the world’s messages.
      Jenny recently posted…What other men can learn from my husband.My Profile

    • I truly find it amazing. You say that Christian men use this verse to there advantage. You need to dig more than your assumptions. I truly don’t believe that men that are getting regular sex is going to throw this at his wife. I truly suspect men use it when say it has been ten days since our last romp in the hay and before that it was two weeks and before that 16 days. The word deprive means refusal on a consistent basis. As in the example I just gave that is depriving her spouse of her marital responsibility. Now I don’t think any man is going to say I need sex from you now while phlegm and coughing is going on. Or you have some sort of infirmity. But let’s say you feel crappy for a week and then you feel better. Then it is your responsibility to go looking for your husband. Not him having to say hey Hun do you feel better can we have sex. That is what Paul was referring to. Paul is talking about your heart and its attitude. So you saying oh he’s a great dad but I’m just not attracted to him. That is what makes it a sin against God and against your spouse. It has always been about the attitude of the heart.

  2. Oh my, I’m having a really hard time not wailing on that guy talking about post-partum waiting to have sex. He is looking out for his own rights, not looking to the restraint placed on him as a husband to sacrificially love his wife as Christ loved the church “and gave Himself up for her”. Nor is he looking to the OT pattern, ordained by God, of waiting a significant length of time post-partum to give a woman’s body time to heal and rest before reentering that physical state of intimacy. This sort of sex-mania infects our church culture in the ugliest of ways, and this is one awful example of it. :(

    God help him to change his heart and repent.
    Jess @ Making Home recently posted…Show and Tell: On My MindMy Profile

    • As you mention, God’s word gives us instruction on how long to wait after a birth (I believe 40 days for male babies and 80 for females) as well as for a woman’s cycle. These should be easy points to come to for mutual agreement. Taking 1 passage of scripture and using it as a hammer without weighing it with related scripture turns it into a weapon we husbands shouldn’t use.

  3. It seems to me that (even in my virginal ignorance) much of this boils down to one question:

    “What do you genuinely believe about sexual intimacy?”

    If both husband and wife truly see sex the way God does, then they will hold themselves accountable for their attitudes and actions, making it the beautiful act that God intended it to be.

  4. Ah! I agree with Jess. My goodness. A woman’s body is in no position to have sex after giving birth, no way. Some women recover faster than others (I did), but it is so unloving, especially in a situation where doctors often recommend or insist on a wait time, to pull out that verse and pretend like *she* is in the wrong.

    It’s because in a lot of Christian circles, sex is never talked about, so a lot of Christians come into a marriage relationship with only partial understandings, not necessarily of mechanics, but of the relationship as a whole (caring, mutuality, etc). People get so obsessed with what the woman “should” do, especially as related to sex, that they forget what the Bible calls men to. In my circle of friends, it is the women who truly feel like they are deeply loved, like their husbands are looking out for their best interests, that most enjoy sex. I don’t think that one produces the other (sacrifical love producing sexual interest or vice versa), but it has been my experience that either both are present or neither are (in both parties, now that I think of it).

  5. It sounds like their marriage has lots of other problems that need to be addressed before their sexual issues even come into play. I strongly believe that women should give of themselves sexually to their husbands, but I think grace comes before law; therefore, the law is being abused in this situation and their hearts need to be fixed first.
    Sis recently posted…RAHR! Becoming a Tiger in the BedroomMy Profile

  6. Thank you for printing the comment by Kelly. I have often felt very uncomfortable by some of the comments of male readers of this blog. I appreciate her willingness to speak up!

    • Kelly’s comments have got to be some of the worst I’ve ever read! To say this:

      “Yep, some of the comments you read by men on these marriage websites are precisely why Christian women are beginning to advise each other not to risk marrying a Christian man! (I’m not kidding).”

      And have Sheila add:

      “And I would echo what Kelly said at the beginning of her comment: in conversations with men, I have often found that it is the non-Christian men who are more giving and tolerant of their wives than the Christian men.”

      is not to be believed!

      To seriously think of disobeying Scripture?

      And if you think that Christian women wish to avoid marrying Christian husbands, what do you say to Christian husbands who resent the Christian faith that locks them into sexless marriages? Julie Sibert nailed their pain in her Intimacy in Marriage blog post, Five Dangers of Denying Sex”

      “I know what some of you are thinking.  ”Well, my husband would never cheat. He would never leave.”   That may be true.
      But the flip side is he may hate staying.
      Though his heart, hands and feet may not wander to other beds, his eyes and thoughts easily could.  I hear from husbands all the time who…
      …hate the situation they are in.
      …hate the desperate loneliness of constant sexual rejection.
      …hate feeling trapped by Christian morals they have grown to resent.”

      Did you get that last? Christian husbands who hate feeling trapped by Christian morals they have grown to resent.

      And Kelly’s answer is to avoid marrying them? Maybe the atheists are right? If Christian single women don’t want to marry Christian men, and Christian men are regretting that they married Christian women, maybe something is wrong with us.

      • Irene, I think you misunderstood. Nowhere did we say it was RIGHT for Christian women to marry non-Christian men; in fact, if you read this blog you’ll see that I say the exact opposite.

        But if you read the comments to the post you will see a dangerous trend in Christian teaching that is WRONG and which can make women very wary.

        If the church is teaching something that is wrong and harmful, it is right to speak up.

        And one of the things that is wrong and harmful is the idea that women must give sex whenever men want, as if men were animals and women merely recipients and servants. That is not a godly view of marriage.

        Now, you’ll know from other posts I’ve written that I absolutely believe that women should pursue a healthy, regular sex life, and that saying no to sex is not something to be condoned. But there is no doubt that there are many men in certain Christian circles who do teach that women are basically to be sexually subservient. You read this in this post.

        And if that doesn’t turn women off of Christianity I don’t know what does.

        There is no problem with calling a spade a spade and that is what Kelly did, and I thoroughly agree with her.

        We should be standing up for truth in Christian marriage, not a perversion of Scripture, which makes one person basically enslaved. And to see a more balanced approach to this, I’d recommend reading my series on what “Do Not Deprive” means.

        But there is a dangerous trend in some Christian writing which turns sex solely into something which is women’s obligation and men’s right, rather than something which is supposed to be mutually agreed upon and mutually enjoyed (and still frequent). That isn’t right, and it needs to be spoken out against, because it harms marriage and turns many women away from the faith.

        I would also say that there are many dangerous teachings that Christian women follow which can turn men away from the faith; this is not a “woman are right and men are pigs” issue. It is just that this particular trend is dangerous in this particular way, and it needs to be called out.

        • Amen. And currently there are fewer and fewer men in the church. Why? Because they are succumbing to the world’s attitude of male entitlement. That males are entitled to sex and females are just a sex object. Sex is not a self-sport for males. Sex is an act of love between two spouses. If a woman feels loved – love=respect, caring, sharing, faithfulness, admiration, servitude, connection – than what woman would NOT want to feel even closer through the sharing and melding of bodies during sex. But if take out any the actions of love – then you don’t get a Biblical agape love. Men are called to agape their wives, not just “sex” there wives.

          • According to people like David French and Mark Gungor will tell you that the reason that there are fewer and fewer men in church is because of the feminization of the church. The modern church has simpering pastors who know how to make women feel good and men guilty. The late Larry Norman said that today’s movies made Jesus look like he’d just had his nails done; that “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” has nothing to say to men. Read David French’s article “Real Men Take the Lead” (google it). Here is a great paragraph from it, explaining masculine alienation from today’s Church:

            “The result is a strange form of “female emotional porn” (my wife’s phrase), where the ideal man becomes—in many essential ways—a woman: emotionally available, always eager to talk, never afraid to shed a tear, and ready, willing, and able to shoulder the household workload. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to Christian conferences or sat through sermons where I’ve been told that “real men” should behave exactly like that, that “real men” have the “courage” to set aside their emotional distance, to approach their wife emotionally and say “no” to their careers.” – David French

            And about men feeling “entitled”?
            Please read Julie Sibert’s blog post from yesterday, telling about how men want to leave their sexless marriages. Read the painful posts of refused Christian husbands on The Marriage Bed. Men who do love their wives, but whose wives refuse them. I know of one man whose wife’s idea of a great idea for an April Fool’s joke was to pretend to want sex, and when he got into bed, yelled “April Fool’s” and laughed. I’m counseling a man whose wife told him last week, “Honey, your twice a month is using up my libido, let’s cut it down to once a month. Thanks, sweetie.”

            “If a woman feels loved …. then what woman would NOT want to feel even closer through the sharing and melding of bodies during sex?” I’m finding out that there are a whole lot who don’t want to. And I’m seeing marriages in danger because of it. One minister I know decided to divorce his wife this week because she hasn’t had sex with him for over 2 years, and recently told him that she didn’t think she wanted to, ever again.

            Finally, wives are also to love their husbands. Titus 2:4 tells older women to teach younger women how to love their husbands, “so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Unfortunately, a sense of entitlement seems to be descending on the women of the Church, saying “I’m not feeling loved like Christ loved the Church. I don’t have to respect him.” There seems to be a lot of the world in the Church, and it’s not gender-specific.

          • Irene, I think you and Deborah are both right, and I’d just encourage you to echo what Deborah has said.

            Here’s the thing: A and B can both be wrong. Do some men feel entitled to sex and say that women can’t refuse them? Yes. I read it in Christian books, and I see it in the comments in this blog. That’s why I wrote this post. It is a real problem.

            Do many women refuse sex? Yes. (And, by the way, increasingly many men do, too. It is not just women who withhold sex; in 30% of sexless marriages it is the husband who refuses sex). Is that wrong? Yes. Does the church contribute to this (especially in the case of women refusing sex)? Yes.

            So A and B are both problems.

            You seem to be saying that we can’t say that A is a problem because B is the real problem. But anything that violates God’s plan for marriage is a problem, and these are BOTH problems.

            In the follow up post to this one I dealt with sexless marriages, and I tried to dispel the idea that it’s okay to only have sex when you feel like it (even if that’s rare). I’m trying to deal with BOTH A and B.

            But I don’t think it helps anyone to deny that A is also a problem, even if B, in your opinion, is a bigger problem.

            I hope that makes sense!

            The key, I think, is to call out all false doctrines or all errors that lead people away from marital oneness and point people to the real deal. And men feeling entitled in marriage is definitely a problem, far more in the American church than in the Canadian or European church, in my experience. But it is a problem.

          • I find it humorous that we generalize that Christian men are like this and christian women are like that. Did either of you sit down prior to Marriage and discuss how each one felt on the subject. I guess not. I guess these types of decisions were to be left up to the demons to figure out how best to destroy your marriage and wreck any blessing your marriage could have been to other couples. So let’s step past the I didn’t think he was like that or she was like this. Does it mean that you still can’t sit down and make an arrangement that could work or is just blaming each other the best you got or even worse proving that God doesn’t save Christian marriages anymore so let’s just divorce. So you didn’t know his or her libido was so high. So what your married talk to each other try to be lenient your spouse wants compassion as well. If you know her libido is lower than yours slow down. No one has ever died from only getting sex once or twice a week. But I suspect the real truth is not rejection of sex it’s the controlling of one another is where the true battle lies. Any Christian person knowing their partner has a higher libido than themselves should initiate sex more often than they think I am just a piece of beef. Just as the Christian who has the higher libido should not seek it as much as they think I’m so sick of being rejected. Talk to each other make a date night where both agree dinner smooching and sex guaranteed this night weekly. With no more than 24 hour rain checks in case of emergencies. Then if the spouse with the higher libido tries other nights sometimes say yes thinking to yourself how much your partner must love you, miss you, need you. Then the other partner knows that if you say no not tonight you will make up for on date night or some other nite. The words do not deprive does not mean obligated. It means duty not in a negative term but rather in a spiritual meaning. To have compassion for your partner that has the higher libido. You married them. So how can you as an individual make this marriage work. Are you not seeking the exact same compassion from them to understand that your libido is not that high. Non Christian complicate the problem with statements like he treats me like a piece of beef. Or she rejects me everyday. Talk about how to come to a compassionate agreement so that the yoke is carried equally. And then pray to God to help you whether you have the high libido or you have no libido. Then non christians will begin to look at how your heart is different and that is when you can introduce them to the one true God. But as long as christians have the same methodology of dealing with issue that non believing people do why do they need God.

  7. Yeah, we’re still working on this one. I really, really wish he’d think about being interested in me around 10:00pm when I still have some energy and a few functioning brain cells. Instead (he’s always been a bit nocturnal), he gets interested in my about the time I get stupid tired. We’ve worked out a bit of a compromise, but it still bugs me a little. With him often going to be later and sleeping later it’s hard to sync up when we’re both feeling good. I want to say that if he loved me or was really interested in me he’d change his schedule (at least some nights), but the truth is that we’re both not great about going to bed early. I just tend to stumble off when I’m so tired I can’t see straight – and that’s kind of a mood killer. It’s not him. It’s us. And I don’t know how to fix it.
    Natalie recently posted…Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 2 (Obey your husband)My Profile

    • We are the same way as you, I get stupid tired around 10 though 😉 What we have done to solve the problem is after the kids go to bed, we have sex, and then get up … there’s no rule you have to go to bed after sex. It’s the way we’ve figured out how to fit it into our schedule and keep each other a priority. Hope that helps :)
      Valerie @ Mission:Wife recently posted…Sexual Satisfaction Survey: The Results Are In! Part 2My Profile

      • Why are people waiting to have sex when they go to bed? If we did , my husband and I would never have sex since he falls asleep at 8:30. I am comatose before 10 am, so mornings are out, as well.Best time for us in right before dinner, but then again, we don’t have little kids. Dinner can wait. Be creative people! Your sex life is worth it! (happily married for 27 years)

        • anonymous says:

          Because we have little kids. When you have little kids you can’t have sex any time you want to. The only time they aren’t awake and needing our 100% attention is when they are sleeping at night.

          • I would like to let anonymous know that ,as the mother of three children, your children will be more secure if they can see you love for each other. And no I don’t mean anything inappropriate, but I do mean that it is not wrong to settle your children in a safe activity in order to have some private time with your spouse. Your children will not suffer permanent damage if they have to wait for your time. From personal experience, the most needy and insecure children are the ones whose parents consistantly drop everything instantly to answer thier children. These children are seeking limits, and this includesknowing that even though you love them unreservedly, that they must share your time and they must wait thier turn. Also you will find that husbands appreciate it when a wife gives them first priority, even if they are not asking for it. 😉 Trust me I speak from experience.

          • anonymous says:

            You would leave a 2 year old and an 8 month old unattended? Doesn’t seem very safe. A 2 year old can kill an infant w/o having any malice. They don’t know better. As for responding to children and their needs right away as infants and young toddlers, it doesn’t spoil them. It actually gives them security. My children are the best “behaved” children you would ever meet. We went to a restaurant on Sunday and we got “the best behaved children” award (offered by our waitress). My infant very rarely cries. He sits on his own and plays independently because he is secure enough to know that I don’t need to be within 20 feet of him at all times to make sure I will be there for him. I am able to get more around the house done because my children are secure in knowing I will meet their need (which is something that is very important to my husband- a clean home. They are able to focus more on play and learning because they don’t have to focus on advocating for themselves to make sure their needs are being met.

            The issues I am having with my husband is that he wants to have control over EVERYTHING, everything down to where I put my keys, how I cut my hair, how I keep the home, how I interact with my children, when/how we have sex–if we have any at all.

  8. I used to be a man who felt frustrated when my wife rejected my advances. Now that i am sincerely trying to love her as Jesus loves His church I can wait until she wants to make love and says so. Then it is actually a much more wonderful experience for both of us. I just wish that occasionally she would let me make the first move. Can you ladies offer any suggestions?

    • Maybe you could talk to her about what signals she gives off when she’s willing. Maybe she wears a certain thing, or gives you a certain look– something that once identified you could use to gauge how “in the mood” she is. So maybe if you could spot earlier that she wants to make love you could be the first one then to actually make an advance without fearing rejection so much. I hope that makes sense. :)
      Amber recently posted…BittersweetMy Profile

    • I agree with Amber. I have asked my husband to help me get in the mood way before bedtime. I need to get the idea in my head long before my head hits the pillow. Some examples are initiating hugging, kissing (little pecks on the neck), sitting next to me on the couch, holding my hand, etc. Just little cutsy love things throughout the day. Major turn offs…..when he says “I want to touch your butt,” or “when you bend over like that, it gets me horney.” NOT a great idea. Huge turn off. I already know that. You don’t need to tell me.

      • innocent bystander says:

        You do realize that that’s one of his ways of saying he loves you and finds you irresistible, right? You’ll hate it until the day he stops expressing that desire. Then you’ll bitterly wish you hadn’t ridiculed him when he endeavored to communicate his hunger for you, to you. It’s a painful thing to know your husband doesn’t desire you anymore. I hope you never have to experience it. Not every man is a character from a romance novel, or Mr Darcy for that matter. Be greatful that he still “gets horny” when he sees you doing…nothing especially sexy. It means he still sees in you the girl he fell in love with. Many women would kill to know their husbands still felt that way about them. Your statement “I already know that” made me laugh out loud. You are *lucky* that you have that much confidence in your husband’s desire for you! Don’t take it for granted, is my advice. God bless! 😉

    • D. You went from one extreme to the other you have empowered her in a negative manner. You need to have the ability to ask if you can make love tonight. Straight forward. While it is admirable for you to wait for her to say that she wants. But if you are now questioning when do I get to make the first move. You will become just as frustrated as her rejections have always been. You need to sit down and work out something better. She and you must feel equally empowered. If she refuses to discuss this then you find two Christians that will help you out. This is not a gang up on her thing. This is done with trying to win your wife back. If that doesn’t work then you find a pastor to help out. You have to find a way to be equals. Carry 2nd Ephesians in your heart. Love one another. Is mentioned first. Husbands love your wives. Wives respect your husbands. Do you honestly think it is respectful when only she can say when. How are you supposed to love her as Jesus loves the church ready to die for her iniquities when she says only when you can. While I know others may disagree but a relationship is about sacrifice one to the other and vice-versa.

  9. Yes it has been used by the CHURCH wrongly and still is! I completely understand and agree that it is not about sex but, about the relationshiP! We do deprive each other of affection, of courtesy, of respect, of love. And I totally have been so against this scripture for years because it makes NO SENSE that my husband can do what he wants , when he wants with my body, none. And the CHURCH still teaches that scripture like that. And I agree, the more my husband pushed for sex or anything, really pushes, like a spoiled child , the more I pull away. I have to freely want to offer myself wit everything I am to him, I can not be taken when he wants. Men need to spend time turning their wives on. Do not come home and expect a romp in the hay at midnight without flirting with her, offering her love, helping her put in the kitchen, what ever her love language is, do it, and the men will have a much better chance at getting some loving! I truly believe men take women for granted once married. They probably think they can “get it” anytime now since the ring is on the finger, and the men stop chasing her, they stop woo-ing her, and I tell you men, that just put out the fire for you. Work for it forever! Women are wired differently , and they need mental and emotional stimulation to have sex.

  10. I severely dislike reading comments like these and seeing how evil and twisted people can act and be. I tried to avoid the “baggage posts” because it’s depressing to read about all the problems people have in the world, although it’s amazing and probably exhausting to be Sheila and try to help so many hurting women and men. My husband and I have and have had our issues but then reading trash comments from men like that make me realize, I have the perfect husband and life. Is that rude to even say that and make other people think their marriages are bad? Or can I offer hope that there are normal, non abusive or manipulative men out there who know what love is? I have noticed that non-Christian men seem more neutral and normal while Christian men seem more good or bad. Blind or insightful. Godly or pretending to be. No one’s really black or white spiritually but it can seem like it. The post-partum wait is based on medical necessity and I have noticed couples are surprisingly uneducated about what that’s about and the dangers to the woman and her health if she is still bleeding and can hemorrhage. On the flip side, if she is feeling like having sex and feeling healthy it’s a clear message from her body she is healed and can engage but if she still feels awful for 2 months afterward her body is not ready and she should not be pressured into sex. Our culture is so messed up. I think most of this is stems from bad parenting and marriages where sons are raised as well as giving in to influences of Satan, pornography, and other indulgent practices that lead men to think it’s okay to get what they want because of some prideful selfish reason that blinds them into believing they are the victim. I can go order a steak whenever I want in our culture, why can’t I order sex from my wife too? We’re married so I’m not evil by thinking I deserve it when I want it. I find a fine line between rape and engaging in sex with someone with no desire to do so. Not that it’s as sinful as rape but that the feelings are dangerous and wrong and should be avoided.

    • Amen to this ^^^^^. Emotional rape is probably even more devastating then rape by a stranger. This man who is supposed to love you, protect you, lay his life down for you – turns around and demands, begs, whines, tries to “guilt” you to have sex every time HE wants it. Not very Christ-like of him. Only leads to bitterness on the wife’s side.

  11. Interesting thoughts–I’d never heard “deprive” broken down that way, but I tend to agree w/you. I’m glad you’re going to address the other side of the coin tomorrow, though–deprivation when the spouse doesn’t really acknowledge or care that they’re doing it.
    Heather Day Gilbert recently posted…A Bone to Pick–A Jealous BoneMy Profile

  12. Good read! I know we aren’t under the law anymore but we can always look to the old testaments laws as good guides for living. LOL know one ever talks about this but back in the day…even God gave gals a break….a long one. You were unclean after your period AND after chilbirth for a time…I can’t remember 14 days maybe? And it was a no no for a man to have sex with you during that time, God said so so it’s not impossible…I truly feel frequency is at an all time worldly high right now in the times we live as men and women can be kept in a highly…artificial sexual state due to their exposures in the world…and ifI you are using your spouse to cover a lust sin then that isn’t fair really. I won’t name names but there is a prominent pastor that says if you aren’t getting all the sex you want at home…then you simply aren’t treating your spouse in a godly manne! And I believe him! It can be either way….I mean really….if you are being treated like a king or queen and your spouse is totally focused on you and that you have a good time….they’d want to have sex with you almost any time! When love is lavished on you you almost can’t help but return it..wooba wooba wooba!!!

  13. Sheila – I just have to tell you how incredibly thankful I am for you and all the effort you put into writing this blog for the benefit of women like me! Once again you’ve enlightened me and helped me to continue on in this ever-growing journey! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for shining a light on the truth!
    Joy recently posted…Menu Plan MondayMy Profile

  14. great thoughts!

  15. Hi Sheila!

    What an awesome topic to discuss! This is one we have visited frequently in the last 14 years. The closest we came to a mutual understanding was while attending a marriage conference by Pete & Geri Scazzero of the Emotionally Healthy series. We discussed this at length after learning their take on the verses above. For now, I’m at the place that having the right to say, “No” for whatever reason is enough to free me to say yes, most of the time. I had to know I could say no. That made a huge difference for me. Knowing he loved me no matter what. And sleep or really the lack of sleep is our number one reason for not having sex on a given night, so we’ve agreed that if either of us initiates, even if we’re sleepy, we’ll strive to join in, because, when you’re married to a doc and you have young children, you’re always going to be sort of sleepy. So if we always let sleep be the excuse, we’d never have sex. In the end, if we’re emotionally connected and communicating decently, we try our best not to deprive each other. But like every marriage, we have our off days, when one of us is just that tired or not in the mood. In the end, we’ve learned that to stay connected, we have to invest in our bedroom relationship, and there’s a mutual understanding there that has taken us years to get to.

    Thanks for posting about this tough issue! Sincerely, Raj
    Rajdeep “Call me Raj” Paulus recently posted…Angelina Jolie Lips…All Day Long!My Profile

  16. CoffeCrazed says:

    “You were unclean after your period AND after chilbirth for a time…I can’t remember 14 days maybe? And it was a no no for a man to have sex with you during that time, God said so so it’s not impossible…I ”

    Only problem with this is what exactly does “unclean” mean – I am pretty sure there are a few different definitions and applications. Because….”If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.” – Leviticus 15:18

    the act of having sex makes you unclean. There was a lot that made people unclean and a lot of that was only for ceremonial purposes.

  17. The period of abstinence after pregnancy and during the wife’s period is not by mutual agreement so that the couple can devote themselves to prayer. It is being forced on us men because we are being told to give our wives a break.

    My very first thought after reading the above: “Someone needs to give this guy an episiotomy, then we’ll see how eager he is for sex.”

    The mind boggles. 😉

    • I concur!! Well said, Mark! :)
      Rajdeep “Call me Raj” Paulus recently posted…Angelina Jolie Lips…All Day Long!My Profile

    • Hahaha!

    • Agreed.

    • I suspect that this attitude shows up elsewhere in the relationship, too. Earlier this year, I was part of a conversation that would fall in the category of the comment Sheila posted about some women advising each other to stay clear of Christian men. (Obviously, I would not do that, but as a single woman, it’s a little frightening to see some of the attitudes that are prevalent in the Christian community.)
      One of my guy friends on Facebook had posted twice during the hottest week of this summer that he was craving some baked good or another. I made a joking comment after he said he wanted pie that he might have more success if he waited until the weather was cooler. A pastor who I have met and who is in a church I would consider very similar to mine responded that real love would make the pie anyway. I said that was true but asked whether real love would ask in the first place. The pastor’s response was that yes, real love would ask and that his wife bakes for him at the height of summer all the time. So it’s reasonable to expect that a wife would show her love by baking a pie from scratch in 100 degree weather, but it’s not reasonable to expect a husband to show his love by postponing the request? Don’t get me wrong – if I was married, I’m the type of person who would bake the pie in the heat, but I would rather do it because I knew it would make my husband happy, not because he was demanding it.
      And this is someone who’s doing counseling for people who are getting married and/or having marital problems? I was thoroughly shocked by the exchange, and it makes me wonder about the expectations men in Christian circles may secretly have.

    • Well, here’s the bottom line. HE DID AGREE. He agreed when HE had sex that resulted in pregnancy. No one held him down and forced him to have sex. Being ignorant of medical and health issues is NO excuse. That man is in sin for selfishness and lying, IMHO. It’s comments like this that make women have that “men are pigs” attitude. I wish all brothers would stand up to this man and correct him. And tell him to quit spreading that attitude. As a woman, I don’t want hear that kind of arrogant mysgimy. I want to hear men to stand up and be warriors for Christ. To defend and protect their families. Including their wives.

  18. van Rooinek says:

    Yep, some of the comments you read by men on these marriage websites are precisely why Christian women are beginning to advise each other not to risk marrying a Christian man!

    I’m glad I didn’t see anything like this til after I got married, otherwise it might have scared me off of marriage totally. Because if marriage is just going to be one long miserable odyssey of sexual frustration, why bother? I had plenty of sexual frustration as a single man, and it cost a lot less money.

    Yes, the Bible prescribes monthly and post childbirth times of abstinence, and rightly so. Yes, sometimes the wife (or, a lot less often, the husband) is sick or just too tired. Yes a husband, no less than a wife, should keep himself clean and physically fit, within reason. And although kindness and consideration, by themselves, are in no way a turn on, the lack of them is a quick turn OFF. I stipulate all that….

    BUT a very large number of good Christian men, who don’t appear to be lackiing in any of these areas, claim that they get zero or nearly zero sex after they’ve been married around 5 years or so… and no amount of helping with the kids or housework, or rekindling the romance, or improved communication, makes the slightest dent in the problem.

    Deep down I suspect that the Manospherian wisdom is true – these women got much hotter sex from much hotter men — promiscuous, uncatchable Alphas — while single, and have thus been rendered permanently unable to “bond” with the average guys, the one who’ll actually marry them. So in order toi have families, they force themselves, they pretend, for the first few years, just long enough to crank out a couple of kids, and then… sorry hubby, the sex show is closed.

    I’d love to be proven wrong about this.

    • Just out of curiosity, what would it take to prove you wrong? I mean, this is a blog where hundreds of women come to learn how to improve their sex lives. Surely they wouldn’t go to the trouble if they were as you describe?

      • van Rooinek says:

        Just out of curiosity, what would it take to prove you wrong?

        The consensus of an accumulated lifetime’s worth of listening to other men, would have to change. Eg. I would have to start hearing lots of comments like these, privately in the company of men…

        Wow, after my wife became a Christian, she really stepped up our sex life — that’s part of what made me think there was something to the faith!

        Those Christian women, they’re the hottest… marry one of those and you’ll never be sorry. They’re taught to be total vixens at church. You have to marry ’em.. but then… watch out!

        My first wife wasn’t a believer and our sex life died on the vine after a couple of years. After she left, I married a Christian woman… and the fun never ends…

        I’ve never, never, never regretted getting married! If I had to do it all over again, I wish I could have found her 10 years earlier!

        My wife grew up in church, and she was taught from early childhood that sex in marriage was a sacred, holy, pure, and totally fun thing to do.

        I sinned, I had sex with her before marriage. But after we repented, and got into a Christian marriage, we reactivated our sex life according to God’s law, and it was WAY better.

        But that’s not what I hear. FAR FROM IT. Male folklore about marital sex, is mostly about denial and frustration, and marriage is considered a sex-destroying trap rather than a sex-liberating paradise.

        Sheila, bless her heart, is trying to change this.

        • van Rooinek says:

          to be even more blunt…

          In a society where premarital sex is relatively easy to get, marriage is seen by most men as the beginning of the END of their sex lives. Consistently men report that marriage is a sex-killer.

          Christian men say much the same, except that if sex doesn’t begin til after the wedding, there is a brief season, the first couple of years, when he gets a lot. Then…. shutdown.

          Imagine the effect that hearing this, over and over and over, has on a single Christian man who is waiting til marriage (as I did). What is he supposed to hink? I’ll tell you what he thinks, having been there:, “I’m so frustrated sexually I can hardly bear it… and yet, most of the married guys say that marriage is a sexual wasteland. Is there NO escape????”

          • I really don’t believe this is the norm. I don’t think most Christian marriages have sex for a couple of years and then have a shut down. Most of our Christian friends and family who we are close enough with to have some basic ideas about their sex lives are having regular sex, and are flirtatious and affectionate with each other in public. All of the single men at my husband’s workplace regularly tease him about how it isn’t fair that he gets so much more sex than they do. (He doesn’t really talk about it all the openly with them – it’s mostly just guys joking around, but the basis is still in fact.) The thing you wrote above about having premarital sex and then turning our lives around and having much better sex afterward is the truth for us – and my husband would gladly tell you that. It’s part of his testimony. (Well, not specifically the great sex now part as part of his testimony, but you know what I mean.)

            I know that there are situations where this isn’t the case. I don’t know what to do to help people in sexless marriages. There obviously isn’t an easy solution (for those of us on the outside of those relationships, I mean).

            I’m sorry if you already said this and I missed it – are you currently married?

          • @ Megan G

            If it was not so common, then there would be no gags about her own wedding cake being the biggest killer of a woman’s libido.

            The comment from one man in the church I attend (congregation last Sunday 51 of which 18 were men) “As soon as she had the kids, she just shut me out.”

            This is a denomination that is developing a resource on cohabitation for its younger members.

            To slightly twist the old metaphor, why buy the cow, with its high likelihood of zero production when there is plenty of free milk available?
            UK Fred recently posted…Jimmy Savile and the BBCMy Profile

        • My thoughts would be that the guy pulled the famous “bait and switch” on his wife. He went out of his way while they were dating. That was man she married. Then when the ring goes on, he became his true selfish self. She didn’t marry that man – and she doesn’t want to have sex with either!!

          • This is sadly funny, as I am reading many husbands saying that they were “bait ‘n’ switched” by their wives who acted “sexy” and said that they were looking forward to marriage, were very touchy, affectionate, etc., and then got frozen out of the bedroom.

            Which is the more common meme in our culture? The husband being frustrated or the wife feeling cheated out of romance? 50/50, right? Or more skewed toward the “Not tonite, dear” jokes, right?

    • More like they were hit on by hotter men or still hit on. Doesn’t mean those men are truly interested in a relationship or commitment, but comparing a husband to these other hits of interest can be damaging. Especially since a woman only sees an outward glimpse at his most confident. Not all the other flaws behind the scenes.

    • Do you really believe that? That makes me so sad. You aren’t saying that about all women, right? Just those in sexless marriages?

      • van Rooinek says:

        No, of course I don’t mean ALL women. Only the chronic deniers. However, there are a LOT of them. Otherwise Jeff Foxworthy would not get laughs like this…

        if you’re a man and sleeping in a bed that has a dust ruffle on it and seven pillows,
        You’re either gay — or you’re married!

        if you’ve ever been antique shopping during the big football game,
        You’re either gay — or you’re married!

        If you can’t remember the last time you had sex with a woman
        You’re either gay — or you’re married!

        • Living in a sin-ravaged world, it’s no surprise that sexual intimacy in most marriages is shoddy (at best). And as much as it scares the daylights out of me (as a fellow single), we have to live with the tough truth that there are zero guarantees that the person we marry (women or men!) one day won’t decide sometime after exchanging vows that sex is history (and refuses to change).

          But this doesn’t describe ALL marriages out there, so I’m thankful for those, and I’m thankful for Sheila (and many other marriage bloggers) who are countering the no-sex-in-marriage mindset by standing up and speaking out for intimacy as God designed it to be.

          • van Rooinek says:

            And as much as it scares the daylights out of me (as a fellow single

            Point of clarification… I’m not single any more.

            And you are right… there are no guarantees. I’ve known people who seemingly married well and it somehow blew up in their faces. Others were happy together…and found out that they couldn’t have kids. Life is a vale of tears.

        • anonymous says:

          I’m a chronic denier, and do ya wanna know why? Because my husband likes to criticize, put me down, tell me I am a crappy wife/mom/housekeeper/cook etc, critique me to the point of tears and then thinks that 5 minutes later he can just “get some.” He likes to build me up too- tell me what a wonderful mom/wife/housekeeper etc etc etc I am. He doesn’t understand that he can’t just erase the horrible things he says to me with one compliment and then tell me my “tits look so hot in that shirt” and “let’s do it” and then start humping me while the kids are in the room and there is no possible way I could even potentially reciprocate and fulfill his request. It is demeaning. Maybe men, my man, needs to get a clue!!! Women are not unreasonable, but we do have needs too. Maybe Christian men are terrible lovers void of romance because they think their wives are just going to bow down to their wishes in submission because they managed to get us to say “yes.” My “yes” was not a free pass to walk all over me and crush my spirit.

          • Your husband has made you bitter. I would find it hard to believe he goes to any kind of church at all. Because it is written for us to love our wives as we would love our own bodies. We as men don’t usually criticize our own bodies. Now women critic all the time but it’s not the same thought process for men. If he is treating you this way. And you love God. He needs some good spiritual counseling.

      • Megan it makes me sad too, and after having spent some time reading in the “manosphere” I needed to go hug my husband.

        I don’t doubt that there are sexless marriages. But surely the fact that so many bloggers are now talking about how important sex is in marriage, and that so many women are buying books like Sheila’s, is evidence that the tide is changing. My husband and I are both thirty, and our sex lives just get better and better.

      • @ Megan G

        Can I suggest that you read the blog passionwithinmarriage.blogspot.;com

        Gemma had a 180 degree turnaround after years, as she puts it, sexually abusing her husband.

        @ Sheila

        I hate to ask people on your blog to read someone else’s, but Gemma’s story is really outstanding in its honesty and its frankness.

        UK Fred recently posted…Jimmy Savile and the BBCMy Profile

    • Valid point, Van. I might slightly alter it:

      Women stop having sex with their husbands *mainly & usually* because they no longer find their husbands unattractive. He may be sweet, loving, a great dad, excellent provider, ect, but he’s not attractive to her.

      Why might he be unattractive? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that our culture basically tells him that if he wants more sex, he should be sweeter, kinder, more affectionate, help out with the kids and with chores, ect. But although that may make the wife emotionally affectionate and attached to him, it won’t make her think he’s hot. She’ll love him like a brother, or a close guy-friend.

      How can he be attractive? This is the highly counter-cultural part. He needs to maintain the above listed qualities (because even though they aren’t a turn-on, the absence of those qualities will be a huge turn-off), and add to it:
      – physical fitness (especially a reasonable, but not over-the-top, lean muscle mass)
      – assertiveness & dominance
      – an extremely high level of confidence & competence in whatever he sets his hand to
      – sexual instigation (initiate all the freakin’ time)
      – a lack frustration/hurt/ect when sexually denied
      – a lack of tolerance of unreasonable behavior on the wife’s part (especially if she’s being bossy – a husband who complies with the orders of a bossy wife will shut down her libido as fast as the guy who gains 150 lbs and becomes a video gaming addict)

      Basically, women are attracted to dominant alpha males. I’ve *never* witnessed a woman get a crush on a guy who wasn’t the most competent/skilled/knowlegable/whatever at some thing that caught her attention. I met my wife in a situation where I very much stood out as a person of exceptional intelligence (whether or not I’m actually that smart isn’t the point – what matters is that I *appeared* to be the smartest person in the room). Another guy I know just got a date with a girl who was in a church small-group he led (guess who looked like the leading alpha male there?). I’ve never heard of a relationship showing up where the man didn’t catch the woman’s attention initially by looking like the most influential and dominant (dominant is not the same a jerk or controlling) male of the group.

      How many times have you heard of a woman going for a man she supervises at work? What about a woman going for her supervisor? A female professor sleeping with a student? A female student sleeping with a male professor?

      Marriage can be problematic because our culture tells a man to comply with his wife’s every whim and desire if he wants to be happy (happy wife, happy life, right?). In reality he needs to not comply, but to take charge and leadership of the marriage, and then run the show in a way that puts his wife’s need before his own. But it must remain obviously clear that he is indeed the one running the show.

      In this kind of environment, the couple won’t have sex because the dominant husband demands it, but because *the wife will actually want him*.

      The transition from sexless-alpha-wife-beta-husband-marriage to lots-o-sex-alpha-husband-submissive-wife-marriage can be difficult. Especially if they’ve been in that state for a long time, but it’s basically the only way out.

      I recommend marriedmansexlife.com to acquaint you with this line of thought. I don’t agree with everything this stream of thought teaches. It tends to portray people as more animalistic than I’m theologically comfortable with. Also, it tends to assume your spouse who is denying you sex is cheating on you, or at least is highly prone to cheating on you. It also tends to view the relative sexual attractiveness of each spouse as the primary issue causing a sexless or sex-infrequent marriage, which I generally disagree with.

      But it lays out what makes a man attractive to his wife in a way that I feel matches closely to reality, which is where it’s value lies. This line of thought affirms the wife’s right to say “no”. It just lays out a plan for how a husband might change himself so that she won’t want to say “no”.

      Don’t buy into the lie that women just have lower sex drives. You and your wife are here because your ancestors had more of a tendency to get frisky more than the other people in their population. Women like sex just as much as men, but only with men that are of a certain type.

      Conversations about how badly he needs sex won’t make her want it. Conversations about how intimate they could be won’t make her want it. Conversations about how this is a fantastic way for her to show Christ-like generosity won’t make her want it. An attractive husband – now that would make her want it.

      • gl- Completely agree! I married my small group leader! I love it when he flashes me some bicep after he goes and lifts, asks me (half jokingly) if I’m aware of how hot my husband is on an almost daily basis, was the top sales guy at work just recently- earning himself a promotion (woo hoo! go him!), and most importantly- he doesn’t put up with ANY nagging and requires that I do my fair share at home while he’s working (I’m a sahm).
        I feel good about myself in this relationship. I’m not allowed to slack, he demands my best, and he gives me his best. I pretty much *want* him on a daily basis. I love my man!

  19. Wait, I don’t understand what the guy in the first example did wrong. Doesn’t he have the right to request an activity that he enjoys in bed? It sounds like he wanted more foreplay. Why was he wrong to want that and why was she right to refuse him so that she could get what she wanted?

    • Maybe I didn’t make it clear. I tried to shorten the email to preserve confidentiality. He wanted something INSTEAD of making love–something he enjoyed, but she got no pleasure out of. He would rather have that than make love, so that sex becomes a purely selfish experience.

      • That’s what I got from it, Sheila. I thought it was pretty clear! :)
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      • innocent bystander says:

        Was he willing to reciprocate? If so, I call hogwash. Also, it’s sad that she would have gotten “no pleasure out of” it. I get pleasure from being the giver in my relationship, and I know the sentiment is reciprocated. How sad is it that a married man, or woman, would not get pleasure out of pleasuring their spouse? Very sad. Heartbreaking, really. No sex act is void of mutual pleasure if both parties are acting in love, and out of a desire to please their spouse. Saying otherwise reveals a starkly ignorant and cynical understanding of the nature of sex as a sacred communion of love between husband and wife. It’s not just about procreation, though that is a critical spiritual element. It’s also about love. And men (and some women) truly get emotional satisfaction from sexual congress, and pleasuring (when they know/are taught how) -and being pleasured by- their spouses. It’s called making love for a reason, and if it doesn’t feel loving, you’re doing it wrong. No man prefers to have sex with their wife when he knows she doesn’t really enjoy it, and that she derives no joy from joining with him, or pleasuring him! They simply settle for that when it’s all that’s on offer. Romance indeed. My Lord! How unloving, selfish, and ridiculous can you get? Romance isn’t a one way street, hun. It’s hard to be romantic when your spouse is unresponsive, (male or female) when you’re used to being shot down, when sex is just a treat that’s given when you perform properly (ahem…Deborah…) and the treat giver feels you deserve it. If you treat sex like a commodity, don’t be surprised when your husband sees it the same way, and demands his share of the “mutual assets” with the same unfeeling boorishness you’re showing, Debbie. God bless, from the future (2015)! 😉

  20. I guess I wanted to add one more idea into the mix. Intimacy is not the simple act of mutually pleasing sex. I love how my hubby insists that we snuggle even if we don’t have sex when we lay down to sleep. I want to turn over and find my perfect sleeping position, but he wants me to lay on his chest, just to start the night. I think it makes such a difference, and I’m working on being more consistent. On that note, each couple can creatively meet each other’s needs during the monthly cycle and even during or after delivery…you just have to be creative, patient, and willing to enjoy each other in a slightly different way. The intimacy that is acheived by these agreed upon decisions acted out of love help to strengthen the bonds between you and your spouse rather than embitter. Because anything that is not agreed upon just leads to resentment, disappointment, and hurt. God gave us the gift of sex to give to each other. It’s no longer a gift if it’s not freely given.

    Okay. I think I’ve said enough! :) -Raj
    Rajdeep “Call me Raj” Paulus recently posted…Angelina Jolie Lips…All Day Long!My Profile

  21. Well, it’s just fascinating for me to draft my Thursday post today and then come over here and see a related topic. I’d like to think it’s a “great minds” kind of thing. 😉

    I agree wholeheartedly, Sheila. All too often, spouses use whatever source they can find, including Bible verses, to selfishly pursue the sexual pleasure they desire. I have also heard too many Christian wives who feel that they cannot ever say no because of this verse, even if to engage in sex at that moment might involve pain. When you have a healthy sexual relationship in marriage, you know what the deprive-each-other verse is about: It’s not about the few times you need to say, “not now, honey, later,” but your whole attitude toward having generous physical intimacy with your spouse.

    Fabulous post! (Now I need to go link this one to my post for Thursday. :) )
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  22. Great post, Sheila! I really liked your distinction between ‘deprive’ and ‘refuse.’

    I think it was one of your posts from earlier this year where you addressed the issue of abstinence during a woman’s period and after childbirth with the idea that GRACE is essential. I’ve tried to carry that idea with me in all of my daily interactions, striving to extend grace to everyone whether it’s my husband, my three-year-old or my high-school students.

    Thank you for your posts!

  23. I am appalled by some of the male comments. Where is the Christ like love of one’s wife? We husbands have a heavy but wonderful responsibility, to love our wives as Christ loves His church. That means we have to be selfLESS not selfISH. I am sure that if husbands live and act in this way then more frequent intimacy will occur naturally as wives will feel truly loved and cared for and much more ready and eager to make love.

    • My husband said that, too, when I told him about this post – I said that in general women need to feel loved in order to feel like making love, and he said that’s probably why a lot of women don’t always want to make love with their husbands.
      Jenny recently posted…What other men can learn from my husband.My Profile

      • CoffeeCrazed says:

        *Feel* loved? Or *BE* loved? There is a big distinction. I get a little worked up over posts like this, even more or less understanding where Sheila is coming from. The problem is that the starting place here is, “Here are the good reasons according to the bible that you don’t need to have sex with your husband.” A woman disinclined to sex in the first place will stop reading here.

        I was a refused husband. I kept my end of the bargain around the house. I worked for a living. She knew that our sex life was a problem. It was up to me to step up in an area so she could feel free. I did. Then I had to step up in another way. I did. Then another…I didn’t. I did what I could to love her. But apparently she didn’t *feel* loved. Even when I was declared “amazing”. etc. Someone always was a better husband. My opinions, particularly on spiritual matters were the suspect ones.

        *Feeling* loved ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Do we always feel loved by God? Do we doubt it though? (one final stab) Husbands are to love their wives, not make them feel loved.

        We both brought issues to the table, but we just began to drift apart. I absolutely 100% know for a fact that I withdrew from her, started not sleeping close to her because I know I’d want to touch her but was scared of touching her wrong. I didn’t want her turning on me because I was getting turned on spooning her. I didn’t want to see her anywhere near naked…the list goes on.

        AND, this is very common.

        • There is that, too. I was deprived in my marriage for a few years (he once refused to have sex with me for three months, and throughout those years our average was once every 6-8 weeks), which absolutely killed me because I desperately needed him to touch me. I can’t say that I did everything right, because I’m human, but I definitely tried. He just wasn’t at a place where he could see reality – who I really am or how bad his behavior towards me really was – until he started taking an anti-depressant.

          I’m sorry you went through that. :(

          I realize that someone can be loved – sometimes to a great extent – without feeling loved. I don’t know what would have changed that situation with your wife; and I’m definitely not saying that she was justified to refuse you, no matter what the issue. It sounds like she had some issues of her own that were keeping her from seeing you for who you really are. But generally, in order to be “turned on,” women need to feel loved, whether or not it’s right. However, I hope that most women would be able to recognize when they are loved. Sometimes different love languages make that a hurdle, but in the end there’s only so much a person can do. We can’t change someone else; and often there are issues involved that we have no control over.
          Jenny recently posted…What other men can learn from my husband.My Profile

  24. Anonymous Too says:

    This is so important and right on. I wish I’d realized this early in our marriage. It might have applied more to my husband back then, but now that I’m the higher libido it is a very important reminder for me: “The fact that the preceding verses say that the husband’s body is the wife’s, and the wife’s body is the husband’s, implies that one person cannot and must not force himself or herself onto the other person. And by force I’m not talking about just physical force. There’s emotional blackmail…”

    And, “If her husband’s body belongs to her, then she has the ability to also say, “I do not want you using your body sexually right now with me.” If she feels sick, or is really sad, or is exhausted, then her having ownership of his body also means that she can say, “I just can’t right now” without needing to feel guilty–if she is at the same time not depriving him.” In our case right now, just flip the husband and wife.

    And thank you for this, “I believe that the admonition “do not deprive each other” refers to the relationship as a whole, not to each individual moment. So if, in the relationship as a whole, you are having regular and frequent sex, then if one of you says, “not tonight”, that is not depriving. That is simply refusing for right now.”

    I’m glad the “light bulb” went on for me with this, even if it took 12 years. :)

    I think a lot of comes down to selfishness. I have found that I am being very selfish and demanding when I’m being pushy about the bedroom. It’s supposed to be “us”–not me, me, me! when I want it, how I want it! Neither he nor I are an On Demand cable channel. It’s the relationship as a whole and considering how each person is.

    Thank you, Sheila for the reminder.

  25. I have very regular sex with my husband. He is quite pleased with our sex life. I always encourage my friends to have regular sex with their husbands, whether or not she feels he ‘deserves’ it. I generally take the guys’ side on these issues!

    But for a man to have the attitude of, “I don’t care what your body just went through to give birth to my child. I didn’t agree to stop having sex and therefore, you better do it and be happy about it,” is so deeply offensive that I can barely even find words to express myself.

    There are about 2 days of the month that I don’t feel up to having sex for reasons related to my period. I freely and enthusiastically participate in sex with my husband the other 30 or so days of the month. My husband is absolutely fine with just cuddling those two days out of every month and never gives me a hard time about it. I honestly don’t give a flip about what some random man on the internet thinks/feels about that arrangement. My husband and I are perfectly happy with it. (And, yes, I know my husband is perfectly happy about it because we regularly talk about it and we’re very open with each other.)

    For a man to demand sex is ridiculous and counter-productive. Surely men realize that. (?) I know there are men who are doing all the ‘right’ things and still not getting any sex, but I honestly believe that is the minority, not the norm. If a man feels he is truly loving sacrificially, striving daily to meet his wife’s emotional needs and show love to her in a way that she understands (love languages, etc), and is active in church, leading spiritually, leading his wife in prayer, etc, and still not having sex; it’s probably time to seek counseling – there may be some deep rooted issue that needs to be resolved.

    • “But for a man to have the attitude of, “I don’t care what your body just went through to give birth to my child. I didn’t agree to stop having sex and therefore, you better do it and be happy about it,” is so deeply offensive that I can barely even find words to express myself.”

      That is why it is called a straw-man argument. I think the cases of a man forcing his wife to have sex shortly after child-birth are extremely small in number. This argument was crafted to get an emotional response, rather than something that is a common problem. Besides, such circumstances only occur AFTER CHILDBIRTH, and how many children do a majority of couples have? 2? 3?
      So a rare and uncommon circumstance is not the basis upon which to build marital guidlines.

  26. I think this is right on, but I am glad there’s going to be a part two. It ought to always be about the relationship and what is best for both parties, not about one partner claiming “rights” over another. I agree with Raj, knowing that my husband doesn’t want sex unless I am a willing a joyful participant is part of what makes him irresistible. I find it hard to believe that any man would want to have sex with a woman just because she was “obligated.”
    Amber recently posted…Christmas is NearingMy Profile

  27. This is so true. I have heard many times that it means to give it when he wants it, because if he doesn’t get what he wants from you, he will get it from somewhere. While this may be true in DENYING your spouse, I doubt it is true for the 4 days on your cycle, or the time period after a baby, etc. Our church is looking at a new building, and my husband is fasting. He actually said he wanted us to focus our intimate time together for a couple nights on prayer for our church… I couldn’t have loved him more. When the time was over, I was so moved by our intimate time in prayer over our church, that I was so happy to oblige in his desires several times. I am thankful for a husband who understands the true meaning of this verse, and it makes me want to be a wife that loves him when and how often he needs it to the best of my ability! :)
    amanda kelly recently posted…Three Questions….Leslie LudyMy Profile

  28. While a cruel, demanding man is ungodly, this post and the comments sound dangerously close to conforming scripture to a woman’s emotions as opposed to a woman conforming her emotions to scripture. Kind of like saying lust in the heart is justification for divorce. Or that if someone is mean to you, it’s okay to be mean back (repaying evil for evil).

    Let’s be honest. God takes marriage seriously and demands serious commitment from spouses to each other (e.g. your body no longer belongs to you). Demanding that a woman has the right to not have sex if she doesn’t feel like it, is basically saying it’s okay for her not to be committed to her husband. How many women would be okay if their husbands said that they didn’t feel like talking or doing anything whatsoever with their wives for several days?

    Men know that demanding sex is not a turn on. Men definitely prefer a woman be passionate about the sex with him, thus the appeal of porn (which is wrong) where the woman at least acts as if she’s into it. The problem is that most marriages have a spouse not being willing to give sexually to the other (usually women). It’s not just disappointing or hurtful to the other spouse, it’s also a sin. The Bible does support holding others accountable when they sin. A man demanding sex is usually a desperate husband that is also trying to confront a wrong.

    • You are right – it is a sin, and those husbands are trying to confront a wrong. Oftentimes those hurting husbands are not the ones demanding that episiotomies (or c-sections) can’t possibly be so difficult to recover from. We know a family who is dealing with this right now, and it’s heartbreaking to watch. And I don’t have a solution for men like that other than counseling. (I don’t really believe those women are, generally speaking, here reading right now. I could be wrong, but that is my gut feeling.) In the situation that I’m thinking of, my husband is friends with the husband, but I am not close with the wife. She would not accept advice or encouragement (or a copy of Sheila’s book) from me.

      So…I guess that makes the question:
      What can we, friends or family or fellow believers, do to help bring about change in these types of situations?

    • I agree with jsr. It often seems like women say “submit to your husband…. unless he’s being unreasonable.” In most loving marriages, a husband will be understanding and not pressure his wife to have sex if she just had a baby, or if she really doesn’t feel well, etc. Most of the time spouses can come to a reasonable compromise on these issues. But sometimes spouses are unreasonable. In those situations are wives allowed to not submit to their husbands? What if your husband absolutely demands sex? Whether it’s right or wrong for him to demand it, whether he’s being kind, loving and gracious or not, is the wife allowed to disobey him? Does she not have to submit to him because he’s being unreasonable or unloving? The bible doesn’t say “Wives, submit to your husbands…. unless he’s being a jerk and then you don’t have to listen to him.” Hopefully in most cases, both spouses can be reasonable, understanding and loving and will be able to compromise. But let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen. Either way, the bible’s command to wives to submit does not change.

      Also, I think a lot of the commenters are being too hard on the guy Sheila quoted who said the period of abstinence after childbirth was being forced on husbands. I don’t think the guy is necessarily this big brute who wants to force his poor little wife to have sex the day after she has a baby. Unless he’s a complete jerk, he probably understands that his wife’s lady parts aren’t going to be feeling so good for a while after having a baby. I think he mostly doesn’t like that husbands are given no say in the matter whatsoever. The wife and her doctor agree together that he ain’t gettin’ any for 6 weeks, case closed, and the poor guy isn’t even allowed an opinion in that aspect of his marriage. Most guys I’m sure would be understanding and give their wives a break for a while after the baby is born, but maybe he would decide that after say 4 or 5 weeks they can resume some gentle love making, or whatever he thinks is right for them. I think the guy’s main complaint is that his wife and her doctor make this decision without any regard to his thoughts, and he feels like his authority in the marriage is completely dishonored.

      • One more thing. Sheila, your definitions of the words “deprive” and “refuse” are very interesting and I understand what you’re saying. My only concern is that you are defining the English translations of the words in the bible. Could you give us a definition of the original Greek word used in the verse? I’m always a little wary of analyzing the English text of Scripture, since our English translations are not inspired and we may have a different understanding of the word than the original writer did.

        I’m definitely not a Greek scholar, but what I learned just from a quick internet search is that the Greek word is apostereó and it means: deprive, keep away from someone, i.e. by defrauding (depriving); to cheat, taking away what rightfully belongs to someone else.

  29. You also forgot about how the wife is commanded to submit and obey her husband…

    “And by force I’m not talking about just physical force. There’s emotional blackmail…”
    If the woman can refuse Biblical sex, why can’t the man refuse witholding emotionally? Are you saying that a woman is entitled to emotional fulfillment and intimacy no matter what her husband thinks? What if he just doesn’t feel like listening or talking to her?

    • Yes, I am. It’s called doing the right thing, regardless of what your spouse does.

      • I think ar10308 is saying that if it’s okay for a wife to refuse sex when she doesn’t feel like it, it must also be okay for a husband to refuse to give affection if he doesn’t feel like it. Sheila, you’re saying that a wife is entitled to affection and the husband should give it to her whether he feels like it or not because it’s the right thing to do. According to this logic, a husband is entitled to sex and his wife should give it to him whether she feels like it or not because it’s the right thing to do.

  30. ” what do you get out of sex..It just doesnt seem like there is much to enjoy in it for a woman?”

    “a man can spot a ‘blond’ a mile away”

    ” I do not want you on my checking account”

    “my pastor friend says you dont have enough faith to believe that you are not allergic to milk”

    “you should not teach our son the bible..my pastor friend said so…you are not qualified”

    “How can it take so long for your episiotomy to heal?”

    No wonder I ran into the arms of an unsaved man after my divorce. Not to mention three horrible dating experiences after the divorce that all involved ..you guessed it Christian men!

    I am happy to say my second husband has rededicated his life….he was saved as a kid…but very back slidden when we met.

    He is not perfect but then neither am I.

    One thing we do share is that we both want the other to enjoy the love making experience. To be involved emotionally, not just out of a sense of duty.

    These wounds are still there. The tears have since stopped falling down the well worn grooves in the skin. But the scars remain. I have been there, but can point to a Healer! One who understands the pain and can keep you in His embrace! There are second chances at true love. He is the author of it! Humility is key!

    all comments made to me , about me, from my ex husband.
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  31. Okay, for the gentleman (or men) who think that the six weeks after childbirth isn’t necessary and is just women using it as an excuse to not have sex: Do you know why the six weeks is recommended? Because the woman’s body has just been through a physically traumatic event akin to major surgery. Sometimes it IS major surgery if she’s had a C-section. She has been stretched and ripped and strained and she is IN PAIN. She has open wounds in her body that need to heal, and overdoing it physically or having sex too soon could cause re-injury or infection. THAT is why six weeks is recommended. Imagine having a major injury to your genitals and being in pain while you recover and your wife whining that you’re “depriving” her. Yeah, doesn’t sound fun, does it?

    When I had my first baby I got a 2nd degree tear that required stitches, besides the trauma to my body of squeezing out a 9 pound baby for the first time! I could barely SIT for weeks. I could not walk normally for the first several days after giving birth. I was IN PAIN. It took the full six weeks for me to be able to have sex at all! The first time we tried we didn’t get very far because it caused me a lot of physical pain.

    Now I’m going to give you husbands some advice: When you’re understanding of that, when you’re tender and loving toward her and wait for her body to be healed and ready, she’s probably going to be a lot more inclined to “help you out” occasionally during that period of time. That does not mean you get to ask every day! She could be just as frustrated as you are, wanting to be intimate but her body is not healed enough yet. Be sensitive to that. It is not her choice to “deprive” you, she is not forcing this on you.

    Six weeks is a short time in the grand scheme of things. But it will drag if you look at it all negative. Instead, look for other creative ways to be intimate. Snuggle in bed, massage her shoulders, take a shower together. Or take the baby from her and tell her to take a long, hot shower! There is almost nothing sexier than that!

    Just as sex is mutual, periods of deprivation have to be mutual as well. They take mutual understanding, mutual love, and mutual tenderness to get through. You have the rest of your lives to have sex – don’t focus so much on the six weeks.

    Okay, getting down off my soapbox now…
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    • van Rooinek says:

      Okay, for the gentleman (or men) who think that the six weeks after childbirth isn’t necessary and is just women using it as an excuse to not have sex: Do you know why the six weeks is recommended? Because the woman’s body has just been through a physically traumatic event akin to major surgery

      Yes, only the stupidest and most selfish of men fail to realize this. Taking a break from sex, post childbirth or for any other legitimate medical reason, should be uncontroversial.

      That’s beside the point though. Most of the time, the chronic denier (usually, but not always, the wife), does NOT have a medical excuse.

  32. This is close to my heart right now because we’re once again in that stage of pregnancy where my interest and availability is limited by constant nausea and exhaustion. There are days when he literally cannot touch my body without me needing to vomit. Naturally this leads to less sex than my husband would wish. My husband actually finds me much more attractive when I’m pregnant. So in some ways, a reduced frequency is more of a sacrifice right now than it might be at other times. It would be unloving for him to demand my acquiescence or submission–a word that has value in most other contexts but has absolutely no place in this one.
    My responsibility in this situation is to work out as many times as I can to be available for him and his responsibility is to be patient and generous when I have to refuse. We try to leave communication open so that we are aware of what each others needs are. It is also a season to focus on other ways of caring for each other that can strengthen our bond in other areas. Despite the impression given by some of the other comments, most men also do need intimacy in a number of different ways in addition to sex.
    I think that the distinction that this verse involves here is between a spouse recognizing a legitimate and temporary situation where they either put their mutual needs for other things over intercourse or their spouses needs over their own need for intercourse. Neither the verse nor this post are advocating a lifestyle of refusal.
    I went to a wedding over this last weekend of a friend who has severe medical issues that will not only curtail their sex life during seasons of illness but also cause her to lose the ability to function physically in many other ways. She is being blessed by a man who is willing to take this as one of the conditions of their life together because he loves her more than he loves himself and is ready to set aside his own needs on her behalf when that is necessary. I know that the cry of her heart is to be a full wife and helpmeet to him in every way–including a regular sex life. Only God will grant them the times when this is possible. It would be beyond cruel for either of them to insist on either refusing when physical intimacy is possible or insisting on it when it is not.

  33. I am one with the bigger libido in our marriage. My husband is genuinely too tired to have sex during the weeknights unless we are trying to conceive. He is travelling 4 hours a day to and from work on the train and works and 8 hour day. I have told him to perhaps go to bed earlier. What else can I do to help us in this situation? Thanks.

    • Teresa, at the beginning of our marriage, I was the one with the stronger libido, as well. It was difficult. To make matters worse, He’s a morning person and I’m comatose until 10 am. After having kids, our drives evened out. We’ve been married for 27 years and our sex life is still good, but there’s always room for improvement and we keep trying to make it better. My advice is not to wait until you go to bed to have sex. Skip dinner ; ) or have dinner later. If you have kids, arrange for a friend to take them once mid- week at dinner time. I would sit down with your husband and bring up the problem and come up with some solutions together. Use “I” statements and never say “you never” you always”, “you don’t”. For example: “I would love it if we had sex ___ times during the week., how can we make that happen?”

  34. This is not a favorite. As a wife and a woman who denied her husband for almost 7 years, I can honestly say that as wives, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to quench our husbands’ appetites. We are the only ones with whom our husbands can express themselves in this way and if he’s not asking for something harmful or abusive, there are rarely any excuses good enough to deny him.

    A normal, Christian man, with a healthy sexual appetite (ie…often) should be praised not talked down to (ie..Kelly’s response) as a teenage boy. This fuels a little the distrust in Christian women. Even when we don’t “feel like it”, outside of legitimate illness, we are the only way our husbands should be getting this release so why not indulge him often?

    My husband doesn’t always feel like going into work to provide for us, yet he does. He doesn’t always feel like helping around the house or with the kids, yet he does. So while I might not always feel like having sex, I do because I’m the only one my husband can get this from.

    There should never be post from Christian women, to Christian women that gives any justification to denying our husbands. While I can see the attempt at balance, there is still a little too much cheering for women who are so self-focused that think it’s OK to leave their husbands high and dry in the area of sex.

    Women who often are communicated that they aren’t enough are usually the same ones who settle for the bare minimum of the US average (3-4 times a week) and aren’t really present in sex. This of course does not include women who are in marriages with men with porn infested brains.

    We should be celebrating our men’s God-given sex drives because they are men…not boys.
    Jennifer recently posted…We are EnoughMy Profile

    • Jennifer, I would ask that you read the next two posts, because they provide balance. As I said in this post, I was arguing one side, and then the following day I argued the other side, and then I found the balance.

      I believe, though, that everything that I said here was true. Do not deprive is not the same as do not refuse. To insinuate that a wife MUST ALWAYS make love whenever her husband wants to–even if she’s in pain, even if she just had a miscarriage, even if she just lost her mother, does not promote a healthy view of marriage, and is not consistent with the context of this verse, which is about mutuality, not selfishness.

      The Bible should never be used as a tool for promoting selfishness, and that is what it often becomes. Jesus’ message was servanthood, not one where we demanded that every desire we had was fulfilled.

      Should wives make love to their husbands? Of course, and in this post I argued that there should be a healthy level of sexual activity. But that is not the same as saying that a wife has no right to refuse, which is what I have heard many men say. I think that’s a dangerous message to give to both husbands and wives, and it really needs some balance.

      • Tyler Bryant says:

        Agree with most of what you said in these articles, however, you’re wrong about one thing, Sheila; Refuse and Deprive are one and the same. A woman not complying with her husband’s sexual needs for medical/physical reasons, such as sickness or just had a baby, IS NOT refusal, but is rather inability. Refusal is being ABLE, but not Willing. A woman could physically have sex and fulfill their husband’s sexual needs, but doesn’t want and therefore won’t do it. Thats refusal, and as deprive means to rob or take something away from another against their will, the two are one and the same the thing.

        • Tyler–so, just to be clear, you’re saying that if a husband wants sex 3 times a day, and the wife is tired or has other things that have to get done, then she is depriving him?

          If the husband’s body belongs to the wife, that implies that she also can say, “I don’t want you doing that with your body right now.” I think it’s incumbent on both to find a healthy balance where there’s give and take on both sides. You’re describing a situation where ONLY the wife has give. That’s never right.

          • Tyler Bryant says:

            No, thats not what I’m saying. I’m saying if there is nothing else getting in the way and nothing keeping her from doing it, such as being tired or having other things to do, then it would be a sin for her to refuse him. Thats why I included having a baby or being sick in my comment, to imply that with exceptions like those or anything else preventing sex it would be wrong for her to refuse since she technically could do it, but won’t. If she is too tired, sick, or anything that would keep her from being able to have sex, then its called inability, not refusal. If a husband wants sex three times a day, but she doesn’t have the energy to do it, then not having sex three times a day with him is not refusing/depriving him. Shes unable to do it. She should do it as she is able, such as one time if she has the energy and time, though Understand? I didn’t mean you were wrong in your suggestions. I agree completely with them. But the way you seem to think of what refusing means was not correct as true refusing is the same thing as depriving since nothing is getting in the way or wrong, and yet she still won’t comply. I used the “she” thing just to generalize since that is most often, but not always, the case that the man is the one with the higher sex drive. All this I’ve said can also apply the other way around as well. I hope this clears up any confusion.

  35. Completely agree with the sentiments expressed I this post. Thanks for helping me consider “deprive” vs “refuse”. Good distinction.

    The part that really gnaws at me is the comment from reader Kelly. Even in my agreement with her points about what women expect, it is hard to get beyond the arrogance. To qualify anything as “blindingly obvious” is both to misunderstand the power of sin to obscure the obvious from all of us and to imply that she doesn’t miss any blindingly obvious sexual cues herself. Unlikely.
    Reed recently posted…Have You Heard Of? Week of March 8th, 2013My Profile

  36. Jordan Christine says:

    The goal in marriage is to be in unison. This is done by prayer & praise of our Lord as a couple. We can not treat our spouse the way the world says and get godly results. Pray that God would restore purity to the sexual desires and anything else troubling your marriage. God wants His daughters to be cherished.

    • “God wants His daughters to be cherished.” And His sons? What about His sons? Are they to be cherished, as well, or are they just there to do the cherishing?

  37. anonymous says:

    My husband told me last night (after I asked what was going on) that the reason we almost never have sex is because he is too tired at night, he doesn’t like the way I cut my hair, and we fight too much. (we have been going to marriage counseling for some time). I asked him what he does when we don’t have sex. He said he relieves himself in the shower. Is he depriving me? Or because we aren’t getting along this is ok? Is masturbating in the shower instead of doing that with me ok? I asked him if I was supposed to do that too then, and he didn’t respond.

    • Yes, that is depriving you, and it is wrong. When we are married, all our sexual energy is to be directed towards our spouse. If he is relieving himself on his own, he’s also allowing himself to not work on your problems together that made him not want to have sex in the first place. Let’s say he didn’t masturbate. What then? He’d have to have sex with you, which would mean that he’d have to feel closer to you, he’d have to work at communicating, and he’d have to work through your issues. Instead, he’s taking the easy way out.

      I’m sorry if I’m sounding harsh, but I’m quite passionate about this. God gave us our drives partly so that we would have to work on communicating and growing closer together and forgiving and all those good things that make us look more and more like Christ. If we take care of our sexual release ourselves, then we get rid of all the need to work on these things. And I think that’s just plain wrong. You might enjoy the third post in this series most where I talk about some of this.

    • Tell him that you’ve got the right of first refusal. If he’s not going to give you a chance, he doesn’t get to whack off in the shower, as he’s stealing from you.

  38. Is it depriving if you’re the lower drive spouse, but yet your communication with your spouse is so awful that the word sex itself is never really used? Is it depriving if your spouse never comes out and asks for sex or uses words (ie: I’d really love to be with you tonight), but rather just grabs your boobs silently?? I am soooo tired of being the spouse who uses words and does not beat around the bush, that I’ve tired of planning sex, tired of planning dates, tired of planning everything so I just don’t do it anymore.

    • That’s a tough one. It sounds like your issue really isn’t sex but is instead communication. And how do you fix communication in your marriage? Really quickly, find things to do together. Just spend time together, low stress. Go for walks. Take up hiking. Start a sport. Start a hobby. If he likes to go to hockey games, go to hockey games with him. Just spend time together so you can laugh together.

      Then you can start talking about things more. Read a book on communication together. Make small little changes in how you talk to him, so that you are sure that you’re honoring and respecting him, but then also say, “I feel like we’re distant, and I don’t want to feel that way. What’s something that I can do to bridge the gap?” “Now, can I ask you to do one thing for me? Can you…” Try to start with small changes. And always ask what changes you can make as well.

      Many men find communication so much easier when they also feel that their wives desire them. I know that’s hard if you feel unloved and distant, but if you can jump in, while also doing these other things and trying to work on communication, that can definitely help.

      I am sorry, though. I know it’s lonely. But he’s probably lonely, too, and the only way forward is to do what is in your power to do.

  39. Wow. Having been married for nearly 3 decades I find the comments of some of the men’s comments to be extremely selfish. I shudder to think what would happen should the wife become ill, such as in our case. I have always loved sex and had the higher sex drive for many years and that all fell away as I neared menopause. Nearly every time we had sex, I got a urinary tract infection. Anyone who has had a UTI knows how painful they are. They pretty much put me out of commission for a week. Hard to enjoy sex when you know it’s going to mean a trip to the urgent care. Had horrible menopausal symptoms that made sex painful and had no desire at all. I thank God my husband is a loving, patient and caring man because this went on for at least 3 years. I finally decided to get on bio-identical hormones because I wasn’t willing to give up our sex life at 50 years old. We are now back to having a good sex life.

  40. Trayeck says:

    When it is looked at in the context of the verse that comes before it, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” I think it is saying don’t refuse. I think the many commentators that says this means don’t refuse are looking at it in context instead of just picking the one word out and looking for a meaning that suits them.

  41. The Greek on that word ‘deprive’ is defraud.


    I’m off to defraud. But seriously..

    The logic above is feminism. It certainly isn’t sound. If you can massage this chapter of the Bible, I can massage the rest of it therefore.

    Speaking so personally, I have sex about four times a year. With my wife of many years.

    There is patent, demonstrable, scientifically observed data that the male biology for the need for sexual expression far exceeds the female biology for sex. (Any studies to the contrary perhaps may have the Kardashians as sponsors). The point here is merely practical: God said it is better to rid yourself of an offence than to enter Hell. If you have a large libido, you may choose to be single, and therefore a fornicator if/when you slip up. If married with a depriving spouse based on above logic, you will be an adulterer IF you slip up. I’m still afloat. Pray for me please.




    Don’t marry. Unfortunately I’m addressing a majority of men. Zero sum game, obviously. Go with the lesser penalty because, unfortunately, since the 60s and the white feather brigade, you will lose.

    A touchy subject indeed. Never preached on in the pulpit. But it ruins more lives than you can count.

    Woe indeed…

    Peace, God bless.

  42. I run a Christian men’s group. We have guys in there whose wives will only have sex 2 or 3 times a YEAR. This is a real problem and these guys do turn to masturbation and pornography which is not right either. They’ve shown this verse to their wives, but it has only sparked resentful fights. When a woman constantly turns down her husband for months and months, then it would be hard to argue that her husband is being selfish. My friends are trying to be better husbands, they’re wanting a better marriage, but this whole issue is causing resentment and it’s not a good thing.

    • I am in the four times a year group. There are 3 topics avoided like the plague in my non denom church: marriage divorce remarriage, the headcovering, and 1 Corinth 7.

      I’m bothered less and less by hubris, 40 years is enough.

  43. paul was writing as a unmarried Jewish man. He, if he was devout, would know very very little about menstruation and childbirth.

    He would also know he did not need to mention these times, as devout Jews consider a woman “ritually unclean” and are not to be sexually intimate with her during such times. Paul would not have had to talk to his audience about that – they already knew that

  44. Nosce te Ipsum says:

    Nobody is talking about the “agreement” or “by mutual consent” part of the passage? What does this mean? How do mature Christians agree to being apart? and does the being apart just mean “no sex”? Is masturbation a sin–Onanism is not considered masturbation, apart from thinking lustful or adulterous thoughts can masturbation be an answer to “being apart” when the spouse agrees “by mutual consent” its okay to do? What is the default rule if God only condems adultery or fornication. If your thoughts are for your spouse when masturbating is this sinful? Especially when your spouse says “no” to sex but yes to allowing masturbation? Any thoughts on this “agreement” clause in the passage? How far can you take the agreement for a time–just “no sex” or is St Paul opening another door for the married couple to “consent” to?

  45. Nosce te Ipsum says:

    I understand many cry out (perhaps involuntarily) “oh God” when having sex, but do they really invite the Holy Spirit into having sex along with them? We know God sees all things, and He invented sex and sexual intercourse. Yes; he sees us having sexual intercourse. Yet so many involuntarily cry out his name “OH GOD” as they are performing the act–is this the human sub-conscious proof of the amazing God’s reality, and then the effects of the created spousal relationship of Genesis? (ironic word roots of Genesis: Genetics: Gender (sex) weird isn’t it?) Thus the part of the passage where St Paul says “devote yourselves to prayer” should you not be praying to God also while having sexual (gender) intercourse? Maybe sexually praying together would reduce the relational marital issues you’re having with your spouse? Maybe it would allow God to heal you while communing together through sexual intercourse? How many pray while having sex with their spouse? So with God all things are possible!

  46. Tammi Mitchell says:

    Wow. SO much negativity about this topic. Being a Holy ghost filled woman married to a holy ghost filled man 25 years I can say our issues, experiences, lack of teachings, lack of knowledge and flesh makes sexual relations difficult even in marriages. I would be lying to say that previous sexual relations BEFORE marriage and being saved did NOT help . BUT, I have known people to stay virgins until marriage and they did not have it any easier than the people who are sexually active before marriage. It all boils down to teaching and being open minded. SEX is not about strictly missionary position and procreation. And it is not about total lasciviousness . There were too many times I with held from my husband because I was being used for sex NOT because he was loving me and he had come to acknowledge that and we both have been healed of that BUT wisdom and understanding your spouse and being willing to sacrifice for a time because of situations is REALITY. Also, ladies, when you have experienced a sexual attack in the past, it is never wise to hide it from your spouse. It affects your sex life, intimacy and how you view men and deal with issues of life. First- GET HELP. Second-move towards healing in every single aspect. GOD is a great GOD and can do all things to deliver us.

  47. Hey there! I am enjoying these posts but I have a couple questions I would like you to elaborate on if possible. What if the situation is based on physical pain during intercourse that causes one spouse to ‘deprive’ the other? For instance, after childbirth my lady bits are not healing anywhere near as quickly as the average, sex is not even a consideration for me. On another note, (you touched on this but didnt go into detail enough for my question to be answered) what if the issue is of oral sex? For instance, my husband would rather recieve oral sex six of seven days a week. If he’s sweet and snuggly its with an expectation for that (and thats been since we got married, completely unrelated to pain preventing vaginal sex). Furthermore, what if the reason for ‘depriving’ a person of any kind sex is emotional abuse that triggers panic during such situations? How would God address those questions or how would He want it explained to both parties so they could gain mutual understandings. Thank you!

    • I can answer your question about the sex after giving birth; the bible says its not to be until either forty(for a boy) or eighty(for a girl) days after the child is born. You not being able to have sex due to your “lady bits” not healing as quickly fits into that and the exception of inability. You’re not physically capable of having sex, and therefore it wouldn’t be wrong to decline doing so if either you or your spouse want to. Only if you(or your husband) were able, but not willing, to have sex would it be a sin to decline your husband or for him to decline you. As to the emotional abuse, whether it be on your part or your husbands, I’d advise you pray to God about it and seek his guidance(preferably with your husband), and then follow through with whatever you feel lead to do(being cautious through prayer to be sure its God’s will, of course). I’d also recommend counseling and getting any necessary psychological(if thats the correct term, not sure) help to help you and your husband to overcome this problem. Praying for you and hoping for the best for you and your husband.

  48. I know that this is an old post, but after studying this passage (and others that are related) extensively, I think you are right in many of the conclusions you have here about the spouse not being able to demand sex (any time and as much as one spouse wants), but maybe for the wrong reason as I don’t think 1Co 7:3-5 by itself says what you are saying here. No Scripture exist totally separate from the rest of Scripture and 1Pe 3:7 probably does teach what you are saying that there are some times when saying “no” is acceptable or that at least the husband needs to accept that now is not the time. I doubt if 1Pe 3:7 is a popular text for women, but it says:

    1Pe 3:7 ESV Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    The words “understanding way” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” and it means “knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (abridged) says of this verse ‘“as you live with” probably refers to sexual intercourse in addition to the broader aspects of living together.’ John MacArthur says of this verse “Submission is the responsibility of a Christian husband as well (cf. Eph 5:21)… a believing husband must submit to the loving duty of being sensitive to the needs, fears, and feelings of his wife. In other words, a Christian husband needs to subordinate his needs to hers, whether she is a Christian or not.”

    I don’t offer these commentaries as if they are always right (as every commentary I have will occasionally disagree with one or more of the others), but to show that this interpretation is fairly normal within conservative commentaries.
    So, yes Scripture does teach what you are saying. However, 1Co 7:3-5 says:

    1Co 7:3-5 ESV The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. (4) 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. (5) Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

    I think that in your explanation, you have given the word “deprive” the meaning of “taking away a need” although you don’t actually define it. The word “deprive” actually means “remove, to take something away from, to remove from office, to withhold something from.” (Merriam Webster’s definition) “Something” doesn’t imply that there was a need. “Deny” means “to restrain from gratification of desires” (MW again). To use the word “deny” would mean that the spouse was prevented from gratification with anyone, but since the Bible allows sexual gratification only between the two married people it would really have the same sense. The Greek word that is translated as “deprive” is “apostereo” which means “to defraud, rob, despoil” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) also doesn’t have that sense of taking away a need, but rather withholding something that is rightfully theirs. In James 5:4, the same word is translated “kept back by fraud” (ESV) and refers to the wages of the laborers who mowed the field. They deserved their wages – or it was their right to be paid. If you put “rob” in 1Co 7:5 instead of “deprive” you see the sense from verse 3 that it is a “right” and then in verse 4 the spouse has authority over the other’s body as a result of that “right”. It then goes along with the sense of robbing the person of that “right.” Some might ask “is it really saying it is a right?” The NIV translates it as “marital duty”, but the Greek word is “opheile” and means “that which is owed, a debt, metaphorically dues: specifically of conjugal duty” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). So, basically it is the spouses “duty” or a “right” depending on your point of view. The sense is that the spouse has this “right” which the other spouse robs them of. This doesn’t set well with us at all in a modern world, but that is what the text says. Now having said that, we need to reconsider 1Pe 3:7, but also consider that the Bible specifically says that Christian leadership isn’t supposed to be authoritarian in anything (see Luke 22:25-27, or Matthew 20:25-28, or Mark 10:41-45). So, we can’t thump our Bible on 1Co 7:5 in front of our spouse expecting that the spouse submit to this passage and still honor the command to live in an understanding way in 1Pe 3:7 and the command to not be authoritarian in Luke 22:25-27.

    Also, if you look at the context (both historical and the greater section of text) you come to the conclusion that some well-intentioned Christian spouses were practicing celibacy within the marriage as an overreaction to all the sexual sin in the world that was outside of marriage (just read 1Co 5 and 6). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says of 1Co 7:5 that “The present tense of the verb ‘deprive’ in the prohibition in v. 5 indicates that some were practicing a kind of celibacy within marriage. This sentence may be translated, ‘Stop depriving one another.’” Many commentaries that I looked at mentioned something along this line (you could also look at the Bible Knowledge Commentary or the Believer’s Bible Commentary). The context does give us the sense that we aren’t talking about getting all we want, but more like any at all, which is probably why it wasn’t translated as “rob”. (I do recognize that this is exactly the issue that many spouses are dealing with – total sexual deprivation, but isn’t the focus of your post) Therefore, when we read “do not deprive” we should read it as not really addressing “Should I get sex anytime the mood hits me?”

    Having said that, you have to wonder if a husband that might have a normal libido and his wife is accepting sex maybe once or twice a month isn’t left open to Satan’s attack. Also, the word translated “again” in “then come together again” is “palin” which means “anew, again, renewal or repetition of the action” (Thayer’s Lexicon) so it means something that is repeated and regular, but that fits more into your next post than this one.

    So, from the historical context as well as related versus we learn that a spouse shouldn’t demand sex or expect it every time, but that understanding isn’t from the difference between the words “refuse” and “deprive”.

    I read through lots of the comments above and I think many people have made some good contributions to the overall understanding. One person mentioned that the Law required a wife to abstain for seven days for their cycle (Lev 18:19) and a month or two if she gives birth (Lev 12:2-6). I don’t think we are under the law today, but I don’t pretend to understand all the reasons why God made that Law and so when I understand Christian women think that is a really good idea (and my wife is included here) and that most Doctors agree then maybe that is one of the reasons He made that Law in the first place.

    I have been reading your recent book (9 Thoughts) and your blog for awhile and you know your Bible. The thought has occurred to me that you may know the meaning of the Greek words behind the translations and might know the various commentaries and I’m sure you understand women better than I do (but I am trying). Perhaps you have hit upon a way of explaining it so that people can understand it without getting really technical and after all I have agreed that you are right in your conclusion even if maybe for the wrong reason. People often need a non technical explanation and you may have given it. If so, then I apologize for giving a technical response. Your writing has been a really interesting read and it has caused me to really look at these Scriptures again. Thank you.

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  1. […] Yesterday we began our look at 1 Corinthians 7:5, which says: Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. […]

  2. […] Monday I argued that “do not deprive” is not the same as “do not refuse”, and shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that a spouse is under obligation to make love each and […]

  3. […] What Does “Do Not Deprive Each Other” Really Mean? – This is a fabulously written series of articles explaining 1 Corinthians 7:5 which says: Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. […]

  4. […] for a time….” (I’ve written a three part series on what that verse really means here). There’s a whole book in the Bible (Song of Solomon) celebrating […]

  5. […] sex tonight–or ever?” Sex is a key part of marriage, and if you’re constantly denying your husband, you’ve got […]

  6. […] 4-5 times a week sounds good to me.) She doesn’t have to say yes every single time to be honoring God and her husband with sexual intimacy. But she can. As long as you are prioritizing God above all and otherwise devoting yourselves to […]

  7. […] I have a series on what “do not deprive“, in 1 Corinthians 7, […]

  8. […] 4-5 times a week sounds good to me.)   She doesn’t have to say yes every single time to be honoring God and her husband with sexual intimacy. But she can. As long as you are prioritizing God above all and otherwise devoting yourselves to […]

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