Let me clarify something first:
I am directing this to wives. Not to husbands. Therefore, I am not going to address what I think their responsibility is with regards to sex. The reason for that is because I think many women tend to latch onto what he is supposed to be doing and completely ignore or diminish their role and response and responsibility. This is about us. Women. I simply want us to think about our part with regards to sex. In fact, I want you to be radical and think like Warrior Wives who will go the extra mile for a good marriage. Forget him for a moment. (And if you have the opposite situation, where you desire sex more than he does, ignore me, because that's a whole other topic.)
(And just for the record...I had a few older women read this post before I published it, just to make sure I wasn't publishing wrong teaching out of a lack of life experience.)
In reality, God designed sex to be a two way street, with both partners engaged and giving and considering each other. Most wives have heard this verse:
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. (1 Corinthians 7:5)One partner is not supposed to be dictating the direction of our sex lives. It was designed to be mutually beneficial. One person is not supposed to be controlling the entire experience of intimacy. Many wives think this controlling the direction thing applies only to the husband and say that he should just learn to control his desires and sacrifice his needs based on the feelings of his wife. Should he learn to sacrifice his feelings and desires out of consideration for his wife? Sure. It's part of being unselfish and living in an understanding way with his wife (1 Peter 3:7). However. A wife also does not have permission to control the direction of their sex lives by continually turning him down because she "doesn't feel like it". Yes, that is also controlling. Should she learn to sacrifice her feelings and desires sometimes to satisfy his need and desire? Absolutely.
Dave and I did not really struggle with this aspect of our sex life early on in marriage. In fact, we pretty much thrived in this area through the birth of two babies. I really didn't turn him down all that often and he wasn't demanding. And then we had a third baby. I don't know why but Isaac's birth just came crashing into our sex life and we're still struggling our way back to a good place. Honestly, I've been controlling our sex life by turning him down a lot in the past 8 1/2 months and while he's been incredibly patient with me, it has been extremely hurtful to him. We've had several tearful conversations about it; at one point, he said, "You write all these great things on your blog, but we're not having sex." Ouch. I'm tired. I don't feel like having someone else touch me after being around three young boys all day long. I just want to be alone at the end of a day and have peace and quiet. And sex is the last thing on my mind. It actually has felt like an inconvenience, and I have resented him pursuing me and I have never felt like that before. I will fully admit to you that I am wrong. I am putting my needs completely above his. That is where my heart has been.
I know that some may say that I have legitimate reasons to say no and he needs to get over it. Well, I think it's really important to evaluate our motives for decisions, and my motive in turning him down has been selfishness. It's been a refusal to step outside of myself. A refusal to believe that he finds me attractive when all I see in the mirror is a stomach riddled with stretch marks and a kangaroo pouch created by three c-sections. A refusal to even try to get my mind in the right place. A refusal to make an effort to save some energy for him by not trying to do it all during the day. It's all sin. I can't get around that. I know that there are legitimate reasons for saying no to sex, and that there can be wounds that your husband has caused that will require a work of the Holy Spirit to overcome, but I do think that if many of us wives really dug deep and prayed about it, we might find that those reasons were, in fact, selfish. Is it always selfish to say no to sex? No, but it can be and we need to guard against that.
I know that some disagree with me, but I have to standby my belief that there are sometimes when you should have sex simply to please him and to satisfy a need. Marriage requires both husband and wife to die to themselves in various areas, and I don't see why sex should be any different. What I am not saying...to be clear...is that if your husband asks you for sex, that you suck it up and march up the stairs to the bedroom like a martyr going to get your head chopped off. Or that you can never say, "Hey, hon, it's been a really long day and my head just isn't in it. Can we postpone this until tomorrow until I can really focus on enjoying making love to you." What I am saying is there are times when you have to tell yourself that it is not all about you. For many of us women, if we're going to wait until we're actually aroused and in the mood, some of us may never have sex. Sometimes you will have to take a breather when he asks, go into the bathroom, and begin to flip the mental switch for desiring sex. Guess what? You can pray that God will bless your "sex session". You can pray that he would bring the desire to you. I can testify to that. I've sometimes felt like, I just can't do this. This isn't going to be enjoyable. I REALLY DON'T WANT TO!!!! And then I've quieted my spirit and prayed. God wants sex to be good! He made it for our enjoyment! He made it to strengthen marriage!
Please see all the "SOMETIMES" I'm including in the above paragraph. Please do not read "ALWAYS" into my statements. I'm telling you this because I have been there and in some ways, am still there.
Every lovemaking session is not going to be a hugely romantic, amazing, mind-blowing experience. God did design sex to be mutually beneficial and mutually pleasurable and if it NEVER is, then there's something the two of you need to work on. Sometimes it's just about showing him that you know he needs this and that you are HAPPY to please him. My husband certainly does not want to force me to do something that I hate. But there are times when he knows that I am just not mentally there, and that I have chosen to make him more important than my emotions. The sacrifice and service that he sees in that makes him feel respected. I know this because we've talked about it. If every single lovemaking session was like that, it would be very discouraging (and actually unhealthy) but it's not. In the same way, when I know that he has chosen to sacrifice his desires and not have sex because he knows that I'm tired or emotional, I feel loved and honored and cherished. I can only respond to this by doing the same thing for him. It's a cycle of love and respect.
I'll leave you with a quote by Gary Thomas from his book Sacred Influence:
[The wife] will realize that she, by God's design, is the only appropriate outlet for her husband's desires. Anything she denies her husband becomes, by definition, an absolute denial, because he has no other place to which he can go to find satisfaction in a healthy and holy manner.
This believing woman may, at times, resent the fact that God gave her husband such frequent desires. At various stages in her life, she may even resent the fact that only she can meet that desire. At times she may even contemplate the benefits of the Old Testament concept of a concubine! But if she's a mature Christian, she'll understand that God called her into marriage to help her husband - and in this area, he may need special help. She might wish this weren't so, but she reminds herself that God's design, God's will, and God's explicit instructions from the Bible are foundational here. (p.191)
Let me also recommend Sheila Wray Gregoire's book The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex. You can check out her blog at To Love, Honor and Vacuum and she frequently writes about issues related to sex within marriage.
Sharing with: Wifey Wednesday, We Are THAT Family, Women Living Well, Deep Roots At Home, NOBH