Saturday, March 1, 2008

Being "Sexy" For Your Husband? (part five)

This is the last in a 5-part series examining if and how Christian wives should be "sexy" towards their husbands. Click below to read previous installments:

PART ONE: Should a Christian wife be enticing or seductive towards her own husband?
PART TWO: Where does the standard of "sexiness" come from?
PART THREE: What is definitely off-limits for Christian marriages?
PART FOUR: Should there be a difference in our attitudes, countenance, and the way we carry our body in public and in private?


In this final post, I want to examine the question: How important is this in a Christian marriage?

While the actual specific degree of importance of intimacy may vary from one marriage to another (at various ages, stages of life, and with different levels of desire), across the board, we can broadly answer, "extremely important".

* BIBLICALLY, marital sexual intimacy is deemed important.
The fact that physical oneness was given by God as one of the original purposes of marriage, and the fact that the Apostle Paul (a single man who generally took a high view of celibacy and singleness) wrote about the importance of regular physical intimacy between marriage partners, as well as the fact that one entire book of the Bible speaks about the love relationship between a man and his wife, tell us that this is indeed an important part of the marriage relationship.

* CULTURALLY, marital sexual intimacy is clearly important.
Our own culture and its struggles with sexual sin speak to the importance of this relationship. (Frankly, having lived in or visited many different cultures around the world, I have personally seen that this is a universal HUMAN problem.) Yes, sexual sin can happen without any problems in the marriage relationship, but many, many marriages struggle in this area, and the Bible itself tells us that deprivation or problems in this area of intimacy can lead to sexual sin (1 Co. 7). Because of the growing problem of porn and the rise of divorce and affairs (including in the church), we must be even more vigilant to guard and work on our marriages in this area of intimacy.

* RELATIONALLY, marital sexual intimacy is extremely important.
Just as communication is a key factor in a close marriage relationship, physical oneness is another key area for maintaining the strength of a marriage. When a husband or wife is consistently refused or denied intimacy, it can produce bitterness, anger, humiliation, self-consciousness, and can encourage negative or sinful behaviors in the spurned spouse.

WHAT IF SEX ISN'T IMPORTANT TO ME AS A WIFE?
Sadly, I have heard many wives speak of the weekly "obligation" with a tinge of disgust, and some just see it as an undesirable but unavoidable need of a silly husband. Each case is different-- some probably feel this way because they picked up this attitude from their mother or from society; sometimes, a lack of sexual freedom and excitement in intimate activities can contribute to boredom or the feeling that it's unimportant; and sometimes the marital act has been linked in a wife's mind with sexual sin and thus is morally repugnant to her. A recent commenter in this series on intimacy expressed her own difficulty in comprehending why sex is so important in the marriage relationship and received good biblical responses from many other women about this issue. Seeing sex as unimportant or undesirable is not an uncommon feeling, but it is an unbiblical attitude towards God's gift of intimacy.

If you've struggled with not comprehending the importance of intimacy in the marriage relationship, I'd encourage you to examine why that is, and what might be changed in order for you to begin to view intimacy in the proper, biblical light. Perhaps a good manual with specific tips on mechanics might help. Perhaps reading a book like "Sheet Music" or "Intimacy Ignited" could give you more insight as to the biblical view of marital sex. Perhaps taking full advantage of the freedom in marriage (and enjoying more than just the same-old, same-old) might give you more interest. But I'd encourage you to work to find ways that this can become more than a routine or tainted act for you.

WHAT IF THE WIFE WANTS IT AND THE HUSBAND DOESN'T?
This is a frequent problem, but is rarely, if ever, addressed in our culture because of cultural views of men and women's sexuality. If you read the cultural messages, it's clear that men are supposed to be like sexual tigers no matter what, but this simply isn't the case. Sometimes it's a medical issue, sometimes it's because of a porn or sexual addiction that keeps his interest elsewhere, and sometimes it's a genuine lack of interest, but regardless of the reason, the husband in this marriage is every bit as wrong to withhold himself from his wife as a wife would be in the reverse situation. 1 Corinthians 7 makes it clear: "your body is not your own". This applies to the husband OR the wife. In fact, Paul's first command in this area is to husbands, in verse 3: "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband."

So what should a wife do in this situation, if her husband is withholding intimacy from her? To be honest, I've wrestled with this question for some time now, and I'm not entirely sure. Certainly, she has "conjugal rights" that ought not be denied. But I wonder if others have thoughts on this? Does Matthew 18 apply here? Should she involve others and/or pastoral authorities? Should she just set up a doctor's appointment and see if there's a medical reason, thereby forcing the issue? How do you think a wife should biblically address this with a husband who is disinterested in sex?

A KEY ISSUE FOR HUSBANDS
Even considering the problem of the previous section, a majority of men still rank this as the primary issue of importance to them. As one friend pointed out to me, this could be because so many men are being denied regular times of intimacy. Perhaps it would not be seen as so crucial if they were receiving enough of it. But just as some wives feel conversationally deprived, many, many husbands feel sexually deprived. The difference, of course, is that we can make conversation with anyone we please. (I'm not trying to give husbands an "out" on communication-- it's a VERY important part of marriage. I'm just pointing out the difference between conversation and intimacy, as the primary needs of men and women, generally speaking.)

However, we as wives are the ONLY ones who can biblically meet the sexual needs of our husbands (and, conversely, they are the only ones who can biblically meet our sexual needs). When we do not do so, we risk not only sin but the decline and destruction of the marriage relationship. Many books have pointed out that a husband who is sexually fulfilled would be willing to do sink-fulls of dishes while walking on burning hot coals to please his wife if she so desired... but that when a man is not sexually fulfilled, it breeds depression and discontent unlike any other unmet need. The Bible itself makes clear that sexual regularity is a key to preventing sin from creeping up in the marriage.

SO, ULTIMATELY, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT?
My basic point is this: Considering that the marriage relationship is our primary relationship in life behind our relationship with God, and considering that intimacy was given by God as a gift to us (not a curse or a sin), and considering that the health of a marriage relationship is very often linked with the health of intimacy in that relationship, this is an EXTREMELY important issue for Christian wives. We need to be aware of it, we need to make intentional efforts in this area, and we need to strive to love and serve our husbands in this area. (And frankly, not just see it as an act of drudgery, but work to take delight and joy in this area of relationship with our husbands.) We can do even this "as unto the Lord", as an act of worship and submission to God in our lives.

I don't in any way want to sensationalize this issue or focus on it in an unhealthy way, but I am personally convicted that this one issue, if dealt with biblically within Christian marriages, could keep many from sin, could prevent many future sins of our children, and could give glory to God by making Christian marriages all that they should be as a picture of the love relationship between Christ & the Church.

I'd love to hear any additional thoughts you have about this. Is this an area where you struggle? Do you or have you struggled to see the importance of this issue in your marriage? Do you have a hard time meeting these needs because of the view and education you've been given of sexuality and intimacy? Are you a wife struggling with a husband who is disinterested? Do you have insights as to how a spouse can deal with this issue if they are being refused intimacy? As always, leave your comments (anonymous comments OK on this series!).

I hope you've enjoyed this series; I know I have enjoyed brushing up on learning about these things, and I've really enjoyed your comments.

{FYI: I'm contemplating doing a follow-up post or two about porn, but it's such a difficult subject, and it's so personal, AND it's affecting so many Christian marriages in so many ways. Let me know if this would be of interest to you, or if you have any good links/resources in this area that I can highlight. Thanks!}

Graphic ("Painting" by Alphonse Mucha) from allposters.com

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