Wifely Duty or Lifelong Lovers?
Hello, my friend!
Today I wanted to unpack the topic of marital sex.
I know, kind of a TMI topic, but I've been married for almost six years now and have had two children, so you know... I have experience and a lot of thoughts LOL. I've never directly shared my perspective on sex other than to say that I think it is a wonderful gift and immensely important in marital connection.
But recently I've seen some interesting and sometimes disturbing content floating around online from other Christian commentators, so I thought, hey, why not throw my hat in the ring to give my perspective.
So I saw a post floating around Instagram a while ago that caught my attention for all the wrong reasons.
It was one of those tweet-style posts aimed at Christian women with slide after slide delivering harsh admonishments to wives failing to do their Christian duty... in the bedroom.
Multiple slides insinuated that Christian wives are willing to give their body, time, and attention to their children without a moment's notice or iota of hesitation while remaining resistant, unwilling, and uncaring toward their husband's "needs."
I think this type of shock-value content can be very eye-catching to diligent and enthusiastic Christian women: I used to be highly influenced by this type of content, always seeming to get sucked into Christian spaces that were focused on how to improve as a wife, how you could go against the culture to love your man, and how to sacrifice and take up your duty. It was like scratching an itch--to be told how to I was failing, how to be better, and what I could do to be moral and good.
And I can see why this particular post caught traction: as with most viral content, there is a grain of truth to it. There can absolutely be hard-heartedness in a marriage, disrespect, and even a sad reality of spouses not wanting or even trying to fix sexual intimacy issues.
But amongst the harsh admonitions, one of the slides pointed out that mothers are willing to drop everything for their children but often unwilling to get "sexy" with their husbands right after doing their makeup to run out the door to attend an event.
You read that right.
The post was basically saying that if you don't want to get it on for a quickie in the front hall after spending an hour on your hair and makeup to go to cousin Brittney's backyard wedding... you're a bad wife.
I have two words:
Come on people!!!
There is so much wrong with this, and I'm happy to unpack it here.
First of all, the love and sacrifice we have for our children is exclusive to the role of being a mother. It is Biblical to be this way toward our children as the Bible commands mothers to love their children, to care for them, nurture them, provide for their needs, and train them. Dropping everything to get messy for a needy child is NOT comparable to dropping everything to get it on with your husband.
If a husband's needs can be so easily compared to the needs of a child, how can we also represent him as the leader? You can't have it both ways: you can't assert that your husband's needs are comparable to the needs of a child while also accentuating the fact that he is the leader in your marriage. A child does not lead the mother: the mother is the authority figure. So which is it?
Furthermore, using the love a mother has for her child as a weapon of guilt against wives is just gross.
The relationship between a husband and wife is not comparable or parallel to a relationship between a mother and a child. You are not your husband's mother and he is not your crying baby. A child does not understand the boundaries and parameters of what it means to be a mother: all they know is they have needs and you are usually able to attend to those. A husband is a fully-formed adult with an understanding of the world, a (hopefully) mature and respectable man who can see and understand when his wife has put effort into her hair and makeup before a big event.
Being unwilling to comply with sexual advances while you are heading out the door for a special event does not indicate that you are not attracted to your husband: it simply indicates that there is a time and a place for everything.
Let me reiterate: refusing to drop your drawers in the front hall when it is an inconvenient time to do so does not mean you do not have a passionate and wonderful marriage!
And I am not saying that sex cannot be spontaneous-- I am saying that your instincts as a wife as to what is APPROPRIATE should not be shamed. It is okay to not be interested in sex at any and all times: this does not make you immoral or a wicked wife. It makes you normal. There is a vast difference, an ocean of difference even, between disinterest in 24/7 sex anywhere at any time and not being willing to have sex with him AT ALL.
The former is a valid position and not one to be rooted out in wives. Becoming a wife does not mean that you are going to be flowing with sexual desire at all times for your husband, and you should not be ashamed of that.
Furthermore, marriage and sexual intimacy in marriage should be underpinned with respect and love. The Bible commands husbands to love their wives. This is basic Christian knowledge. In your enthusiasm to fulfill your Christian duty as a wife, please do not overlook instances of true disrespect.
Many shock-value Christian content posts tend to skirt around the fact that husbands are to love their wives. Just because you follow your husband's leadership does not mean he is incapable of being sinful, disrespectful, or unloving.
Demanding a quickie to satisfy his needs before running out the door for a wedding, leaving you to clean up your messy makeup and pull down your skirt, IF YOU DID NOT WANT TO BE IN THAT SITUATION is absolutely unloving and wrong. It is so very wrong.
This brings me to the topic of consent.
This is another overlooked element of sexual intimacy in traditional Christian spaces which I believe is absolutely Biblical. Just because it has turned into a hot-button word for non-Christians to use does not mean that we should not acknowledge its merit. Many non-Christians have also coopted the words "love" and "kindness" to justify all matters of ungodly behavior and actions, but we do not divorce our beliefs from such words.
Likewise, we should not overlook the concept of consent just because it has been misused and misappropriated.
Consent is absolutely Biblical and should be honored in Christian marriage as a foundation of respect and love. It is woven throughout the Bible: Jesus even consented to his death on the cross! As Christians, we acknowledge when we have consented to sin, and we also consent to becoming Christians when we repent and come to the Lord.
In regards to the post, I do not believe the poster was encouraging nonconsensual sex in a marriage.
But I do think there is an overall tone that seeks to persuade wives to override their desires in an effort to be a "good" wife. Sure, there may be consent given, but I believe that consent given through shaming tactics and guilt is not true consent. Even if the person shaming you is some lady on Instagram who lives four states away: guilting someone into doing something they're unsure about is not true consent.
The conversation has somehow turned into how wives can perform their duty, which I find disturbing considering the fact that we are not in mail-order-bride, arranged, bought-and-paid-for-marriages! 99.9% of us right now are in marriages that we actively agreed to after falling in love with our person-- a man we vowed to love and to cherish.
This is my biggest issue with the tone of all of this type of content: true sexual intimacy in marriage is a gift. It is not a chore, a duty, or a right. It is a gift that both the husband AND the wife can give to each other.
Christian content aimed at wives likes to remind them to not "deprive" their husbands.
But it is important to take note: the Bible says do not deprive EACH OTHER.
" 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."
1 Corinthians 7:5
EACH OTHER. In other translations, it may say "do not deprive one another."
Not, "wives, do not deprive your husbands." Nope. Do not deprive each other. In so saying, Scripture rightly acknowledges female desire and sexuality. It illuminates the fact that sexual intimacy is a desire of both parties and should be upheld and celebrated by both the husband AND the wife.
But beyond this Scripture which gets thrown around to justify overlooking consent, if we are to truly look at the Bible's blueprint for sex, there is actually an entire book from which we can glean knowledge: Song of Songs.
Song of Solomon is illustrated with verse after verse from both the husband's AND the wife's perspectives on desire, sexual exploration, and satisfaction. It acknowledges female desire, female sexuality, and mutual passion just as much as male sexuality.
"Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me." Song of Solomon 2:5-6
"O daughters of Jerusalem, I adjure you, if you find my beloved, tell him I am sick with love." Song of Solomon 5:8
Scripture illustrates true sexual intimacy as filled with desire, passion, emotional connection, and commitment. Shaming a woman into having duty-filled marriage sex with her husband is not a solution and it is not a way to foster true intimacy between husband and wife.
I understand that a lot of content wants to get husbands and wives back together in the bedroom. I understand that there are situations in which wives OR husbands could be depriving their spouse of intimacy.
But shaming is not the route to long-term connection and passion. This is a lazy approach and is unbiblical.
The real question that must be addressed is how can we reignite desire: to get back to the roots of what sex is, why it was created, and how God intends it to be.
So much focus is placed on the question "are you having sex or not in your marriage, check yes or no: if no, you're a bad wife." And then in order to not be a "bad wife," a lot of enthusiastic Christian women seem to just treat it like a chore.
And honestly, sure, you can have duty-filled morality sex in your marriage, but that does not match the blueprint that God lays out for us in Scripture which acknowledges marital passion and desire.
I think instead of painting sex as something you should do, lest you be sinning, we should explore the gift that it is, free from shame!
Sex was created to foster the ultimate intimacy between a husband and a wife by uniting your bodies, your emotions, your passion, and even your lives. It is coming together with another person in your most vulnerable state, releasing yourself into the hands of another person, trusting that person, and exploring passion with them. It can be fun and gratifying... sensual, healthy, and joyful.
If we want to encourage wives to have sex with their husbands, we need to ask why that is. Why do we want to encourage marital sex? Why is marital sex positive? Is it because fulfilling a husband's animalistic desires on the most basic level is good? Because if that is the case, we are not truly elevating sexual intimacy in the way in which it was created to be.
Christian marriage is a sacred act of communion shrouded in a lifelong commitment. It is exclusive, special, and often marked with a lavish ceremony and community of witnesses. And within these confines, sex can be explored and celebrated.
Considering this fact, I believe that sex should be upheld as a gift and a luxury within a marriage: something to be pursued, enjoyed, and maintained. It should not fall into the category of duty or chore, or something to satisfy the husband.
If sex has become a duty or something you do out of obligation, I truly feel that you are missing out on a wonderful part of connection within marriage. To me, great sex within marriage is a healthy component of a well-rounded life: I encourage it the same way I encourage us all to get outside into nature, eat good foods and make friends and have faith. Sex is an important element of being a healthy adult in a marriage.
If we only focus on the wife serving the husband, we are missing the key Biblical component of mutual togetherness and intimacy: the great unity that it was designed to foster.
My perspective on all of this has only become further cemented after my extensive years of pregnancy and postpartum. I had a large amount of time with both pregnancies and between when I was in poor health and unable to participate in normal marital relations.
And this was not wrong or sinful.
I waited until I felt comfortable and interested after my first baby, and when I came to be in poor health again, it was not a priority. Similarly, this past year I have made sure to put my health, both pelvic floor and general bodily health as a top priority so that I could get back to enjoying a positive and fulfilling connection with my husband. I didn't do this because it is my wifely duty or because I had to take care of my husband... I did it because I love my husband and I missed him. I missed the connection and greatly looked forward to coming back together as lovers.
And I know that might be a little TMI, but that is the point I want to bring home today: when we reduce marital intimacy to "taking care of your husband," we completely overlook the element of husband and wife as passionate lovers.
Lovers are mutually desirous and passionate toward one another. It is exclusive to their relationship, and their relationship alone. A lover cannot be satisfied with just anyone-- it must be with their chosen person. And in this relationship, both the man and the woman are interested in deep connection, exciting sensuality, and love. This is what Song of Solomon showcases: the story of lovers.
As you go forward in marriage, enthusiastic to be a good wife, I encourage you to truly explore the connection you have with your husband on an emotional level: to come back to being lovers. Going through the motions and just getting things over with or submitting your body in an effort to please your husband eliminates the opportunity for you to explore your own enjoyment, pleasure, and passion. Healthy sex is a wonderful blessing for married women and I hope you can view it as a gift.
If you are a wife looking for motivation to spruce up this part of your marriage, please don't listen to shaming tactics. The key to unlocking your sexual desire isn't going to be words that make you feel immoral or horrible for not feeling "in the mood."
Instead, I think it is important to get educated about libido, sexual health, and pelvic floor health. Talk to your OBGYN if you have concerns about your desire levels. Perhaps you are on a medication or have a lifestyle component prohibiting you from a more vibrant sexual desire. Getting in touch with desire again often means getting in touch with our health, so make sure you are getting in a little aerobic exercise and vitamin D.
Consider pelvic floor therapy if you have had children or even if you haven't! I found it immensely helpful beyond the physical component because my therapist also addressed the mental and emotional trauma I experienced from birth which was causing more pelvic floor issues. I worked with her for a bit, and did my own personal program and I feel honestly as fresh and new as I did as a new wife!
Logistically, make sure there is enough time for you and your husband, even if it means enforcing some more boundaries around bedtime with your children. If you truly want to explore your sensual feminine side as a wife, you need to give yourself time to get into that role... time to connect with your husband emotionally AND physically.
When encouraging sexual intimacy within Christian marriage, we must always take into account love and respect. The idea of a husband having to have his way with his freshly coiffed wife before she leaves the house screams disrespect to me. Unless she is mutually in the mood and desirous of such advances, I think there is a more appropriate way to communicate desire and affection in a way that honors the wife and respects her own time and energy.
Wives are not vessels for their husband's satisfaction, nor are they objects.
Reducing marital intimacy to duty-filled guilt is not an effective way to encourage women, nor is it ethical. Such negative and shaming perspectives only foster resentment and frustration.
A piece of advice I heard when I was very young in regard to sexual intimacy in marriage was to "always focus on satisfying the other person. Because if you're both focused on each other's pleasure, you'll both always have a good time."
I think this is good advice to some degree when applied perfectly, but I also think this advice fails to acknowledge that sometimes as a wife, especially if you feel disconnected from your body after pregnancy and postpartum, it can be easy to just forget personal desire altogether. Because maybe you don't feel desirous at all. And this is when sex can begin to be a chore!
To fix this, it's important to back in touch with your own desire as a wife. Consider what makes you feel sensual, what you like, and what makes you feel most confident. Communicate with your husband and set up a time for you both to have privacy. Learn and explore together and ensure that you feel safe, and desired and that it is absolutely consensual.
I think some Christians think that as long as husband and wife are having sex, they're fulfilling God's idea for marriage. But I disagree with this. I think that sex was created for connection and pleasure between husband and wife, and when either of those two elements is missing, we are degrading it and the gift it can be.
I hope you enjoyed my perspective on this topic! It was quite fun to write about. I seriously woke up at 3 am and couldn't fall back asleep because this was on my mind. I decided to just write out all my thoughts, so hopefully, it was coherent. You guys are the best! Thank you for hanging with me and I hope you feel refreshed excitement to approach sex from a positive and passionate perspective, rather than a guilty one.