I received this question from our anonymous Have A Question page about a week ago:
My husband and I have been married for 4 years. For the past 3, I’ve not wanted to have as much sex as him. Is my not wanting to, a violation of what Paul describes as due benevolence in 1 Cor. 7? Should I force myself to have sex when I’m not into it? Am I dishonoring God by not giving my husband sex when he wants to have it more than I do?
There are two questions here that I think we should tackle individually. Let’s go in reverse order.
Am I dishonouring God by not giving my spouse sex when they want it?
Short answer: Yes. In normal situations (excluding abuse, severe medical situations, and possibly some others), the Bible is quite clear that you are not to deprive your spouse of having a sexual relationship with you. The verse in question that she cites is this:
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. – 1 Corinthians 7:3-5
Paul is quite clear that the decision not to have sex must be mutual, neither spouse has veto power over sex. Furthermore, it says that gatekeeping (controlling sex) will result in strengthening Satan’s ability to tempt you and/or your spouse. Even if the decision is mutual, Paul suggests it only be for a short time. Extra-biblical material leads me to believe that Paul meant no more than a week, baring work schedules that take a spouse away from the home for longer, and even then, the Rabbis had restrictions on how long you could stay away.
There isn’t a lot of wiggle room here, not much to argue. If you are saying “no” to your spouses advances, then you are dishonouring not only God, but your spouse and your marriage as well. That’s my opinion anyways, and it seems to have been Paul’s.
Now, of course, some common sense needs to be mixed in with this. If you’re spouse suddenly wants sex in the middle of a church service, for example, I think you’re perfectly justified to say “let’s wait until we get home”. If you’re away on vacation…”let’s wait until we get home” is not quite so justified. I know many have adopted a 24 hour rule. If a spouse makes their desire known, within 24 hours they’ll have sex. That seems reasonable to me, and I think it would to most spouses.
Should I force myself to have sex when I’m not into it?
Short answer: yes. However, let me explain. I don’t like the word force, because it implies a negative right off the bat. I think the question is a bit leading and combative.
Let’s try this: Should I try to enjoys sex when I’m not feeling a desire to have sex? That one is a lot easier to say “yes” to.
Firstly, sexual desire can be proactive (usually more strongly and frequently in men, but not always), but it can also be reactive (usually more strongly in women, but again, not always). Hormones may make you desire sex out of the blue, but most of us, when put into a sexual situation, will find out bodies will catch up, to meet the situation. As well, if you let your mind catch up as well, it can be drawn into it too.
Just because you start without a desire to have sex, doesn’t mean you won’t want to by the time you are done. In the vast majority of marriages, one spouse wants sex more than the other. If the low drive spouse rejects the high drive spouse every time they themselves are not in the mood, it leads to feelings of rejection, it puts walls up in the marriage, it teaches the higher-drive spouse that their needs and desires are secondary, and so they begin to feel less important. This leads to a feeling of condescension, that one spouse is more valued than the other, which, according to research, is one of the most dangerous feelings to have in a marriage. It’s a precursor to divorce.
However, if instead you decide to bless your spouse, to give them not only your body, but also allow your mind to be aroused by the process, then you both gain the benefit of all the wonderful hormones associated with sex. It will grow your relationship, bond you together more strongly and make both of you feel more loved.
What you do not want to do is give in grudgingly. Don’t have sex out of duty, or obligation. This will just create that feeling of condescension in reverse, and we’re back to the same problem.
Rather, recognize what it is your spouse is asking for. They’re asking to be loved. How do you think that should be answered?Have a Question? Ask it here!
21 thoughts on “Is gatekeeping dishonouring God?”
I hope this poster will take some time to reflect on what sex is, because it sounds to me like she doesn’t get it, or doesn’t see the whole picture. Sex is NOT just for him. It is for her too, and for her marriage. Sex is not just physical but meets a deep emotional need for her husband and strengthens him spiritually. But that isn’t ALL it is. It also bonds them together as a couple–scientifically speaking! The science for me has really helped me to see God’s true design for sex, that both our bodies are flooded with oxytocin (the bonding hormone) when we have sex. I frankly don’t understand what a sex drive is for me personally, because my body almost never “wants” sex. I remember the horny feeling from before we were married, but three kids later, my body doesn’t ever feel horny on its own. It is only when I respond (like you said, Jay) to my husband’s advances that the desire follows. But I desire that bonding and closeness and general sense of all being right with the world after sex and so I initiate frequently, in fact, more often than my husband. I don’t “feel” like having sex, but I choose to have sex frequently because I understand what it means and i want those benefits for myself too. Sex has become a beautiful oasis in my marriage and so I choose it frequently, knowing my body will catch up with my brain. The writer doesn’t seem to grasp the beauty of sex and what is “in it” for her. I think this is true for a lot of women and where the church is failing marriage: “Ladies, your husband needs sex, so you’d better give it to him.” Gah! Sex isn’t just for him! Sex is supposed to GIVE to both of you! It’s for the wife too, and for the marriage. I wish wives would stop selling sex short. If sex is a duty, then you don’t get it. It is fine to have a quickie now and then or nights just for him on occasion, but if sex isn’t mutually enjoyable and desirable overall, you are selling sex short and therefore your marriage short too. Sex is SO much more than physical need you must force yourself to fulfill. Sheila’s Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex is a great resource to see just how deep and important sex is–to BOTH spouses. I hope this writer will explore just how amazing sex is supposed to be.
I agree. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to realize that sex is one of the ways my husband expresses love for me. As a younger woman, I would tell him what a rough day I’d had with the kids etc. and then later, when he wanted to have sex, I’d think “is that ALL you can think about right now? I told you what a rough day I’d had.” I mistook his wanting sex for him not caring about me and only wanting to fulfill a physical need. On the contrary, he wanted to love me and comfort me in the best way he was equipped to. My interpretation of why he wanted sex was completely out of line with his intentions. It made me resentful and angry and I think that is a big problem with young women today. They become angry and resentful because they think their mate doesn’t care when exactly the opposite is true. When I realized that this was how men were wired and that my husband was initiating sex BECAUSE I’d had a rough day, it changed everything. I started to appreciate his advances instead of resenting them. I will admit that my sex drive has increased since the kids have left home and I enjoy it now much more than I did then. I think it’s because we’ve grown together and I trust him with my fantasies, sexual desires, etc. That’s a much harder thing for young marrieds. Still, as you said, the body will always catch up. My husband and I have a saying that we’ve laughed about almost our entire marriage. When one of us is exhausted and the other one wants sex, the exhausted one says “wake me up for the good part.” We both have a good laugh and then have sex. Exhaustion is certainly an issue but a lot of young women just don’t allow themselves to become aroused for a myriad of reasons. I’ve even read and heard of women expressing disgust for their mates sexual apparatus which is a really, really, an unGodly way of looking at it. It was fashioned by God and the sight of it was meant to arouse a woman. Since that is so, if a wife finds it repulsive to look at, touch, kiss, etc. then it tells me that she has issues that she may need counseling for. It might be part of the reason why she’s not into sex and doesn’t really enjoy it when it happens. Some women don’t know how to help themselves orgasm or they think that’s taboo or perhaps their husbands will resent any extra help in that area so it makes sex anti-climactic (pun intended). That can be very frustrating and can lead to a woman dreading sex rather than anticipating it. Couples need to understand that sex is a gift for marriage and it is to be enthusiastically enjoyed by both parties. If my husband is giving me signals that say he wants sex and I’m not really feeling it, I will make an effort to think about sex during the day. I will think about past encounters with him or fantasies involving him to get me in the right frame of mind. That ensures that I don’t accidentally reject him by yawning or telling him about the neighbor’s dog running through my flower bed when he’s making advances later. I’m already in the mood because I’ve set my mind on it. He has to do the same sometimes. He works a lot because he’s the boss so there are times when he doesn’t just think about sex automatically. When I give him signals, he has to concentrate on taking time to think about sex so that he’s in the mood later. Sex isn’t just an automatic thing and it isn’t meant to be a sideline activity that you dislike but you do to keep your spouse from griping. It isn’t supposed to be in the same category with washing socks, cooking, and cleaning the toilet. If a woman isn’t enjoying and engaging in sex, there are reasons. Those reasons need to be discussed and explored with her husband and if that’s not possible, then with a good sex therapist or counselor. I concur about Sheila’s Guide. It gets rid of a lot of nonsense that has been taught about Christian sex.
Shelley I just wanted to say I loved most of your post, except ultimately men and women aren’t wired that differently. Just women have been socialised to believe sex is a male thing not a female thing. I would love nothing more than to give my husband when he is stressed, down, etc. It’s so important to to spread the message that when it comes to sex, women are NOT wired differently. The average woman has just as much capacity to desire sex as men, just the average woman has spent a lifetime being brainwashed into the idea that sex is for men and a duty for women. Women need to reclaim the knowledge that they can have just as much desire as men.
Also, as someone who loves sex but thinks the male apparatus is ugly, I would have to disagree that it was designed to arouse and that women who think so have issues and need counselling. I am not “disgusted” by appendages, I just think they are not aesthetically pleasing. I’m a nurse, and find appendages no more arousing than any other body part (to look at). Being aroused by body parts is a cultural thing. In western cultures, women’s chests are considered arousing and that’s why they are covered up. In some islander cultures, they are not seen as arousing to look at, and therefore they are not covered up. In some other cultures, things like hair are seen as arousing so it is covered up (by women).
The way I “view” things personally is appendages are functional – they are there for a functional purpose, to be used and enjoyed… but to look at? I’d rather look at my husband’s handsome face, I’d rather look deeply into his eyes. But look at his appendage? I can see up to a dozen in a day at work, they are no more arousing than a hand or a foot.
Visual arousal is very much a cultural thing. Just because a woman isn’t aroused by looking at her partner’s appendage, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with her.
Hi Butterflywings. I agree about appendages not being visually appealing to me either. I’m also a nurse, Perhaps there’s some connection, LOL.
Butterfly Wings, I’m afraid you have missed most of what I was trying to say. I’m not sure why. Maybe I didn’t explain myself very well. I usually communicate fairly well so forgive my bluntness but maybe it’s necessary to get my point across… Do you look at a dozen erections a day? Particularly the ones that you have initiated? I’m an artist and have done my fair share of looking at appendages and also drawing them but that’s not what I was aiming at (another intentional pun). I don’t know of too many women who DO like/love sex that don’t get aroused looking at her husband’s erection which is meant specifically for her. If she finds it repulsive, how does that make her husband feel? I am specifically talking about women who find their husband’s erections disgusting. I didn’t say they were pretty, just erotic. A vulva is not too beautiful either but most men get turned on looking at them. I also didn’t say that a woman who was not aroused looking at her husband’s erect penis has something wrong with her. I said that if she found it repulsive or gross, she probably had issues. For me, if that didn’t do it, I’d say I was in a coma….. but for you maybe it’s just another erection. I think it’s rather sad that some women don’t enjoy looking at their husband’s erections. After all, he grew it just for her and she’d just as soon look at his chest or his handsome nose. I like looking at the whole package….especially when my DH is in an aroused state. He likes me to look. He enjoys it. Personally, I think that many Christians don’t allow themselves that pleasure because it’s carnal (gasp) and not “spiritual.” I also did not say that women weren’t wired to enjoy sex. I said that men are wired to comfort and show how much they CARE with sex. That is altogether different. Yes women can do that too, but we can also do it by cooking a meal, sewing on a button, or washing his favorite shirt. If women were not intentionally wired for sexual enjoyment, God would not have given us a clitoris since, as you know, it serves no other function. As far as being aroused by a body part is concerned, not all body parts are made for sex. Those that are…..are, and it has nothing to do with cultural differences. The interpretation of how a woman’s breasts are viewed is debatable. Penises, testicles, vulvas, and vaginas aren’t up for interpretation. They serve other purposes but sexual function is dominant…..as you are also aware.
Sadly I wouldn’t know what my husband’s erection looks like. I’m married to a refuser. He will only take his pants off in the final stages of sex and it’s pretty difficult to get a glimpse of it then, and since we barely have sex (I can count the number of times per year on my fingers)…
Anyway, you get my drift.
Seems to me that some clarification is in order. What does she mean when she says, “I’ve not wanted to have as much sex as him.” Does he want it 3 or 4 times a week or a couple times a day. In Mark Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage he briefly shares many of the sexual issues married couples asked for his counsel on. He talks about one couple where the wife was upset because the husband was struggling to have sex 3 times a day. It’s not realistic in the long run. So some clarification is key here in my opinion
Fair enough. Perhaps the questioner will clarify.
I would ask her one question: given that you are relative newlyweds, is your husband a generous lover, or is sex just for his jollies? If he is not willing to be a lover, but just a receiver, she has reason to not be too thrilled. If that’s the case, amend the gatekeeping by including the proviso that he engages in foreplay and she gets at least one O in the session. That way, he learns to be a lover, and sex becomes something she can enjoy.
Personally, I’m not sure I could justify refusing my spouse just to teach them a lesson…I don’t see any model of that in the Bible that I can think of.
I’m so glad you put this question out there. I remarried 3 years ago (I’m 42) and a year or so before I met my husband (he’s 2 yrs younger)the Lord spoke to my heart to “never deny him (my future husband’s sexual needs)” and that he had “waited a very long time”. Little did I know that the Lord would bring me a husband that was also a virgin! Only once in the last 3 years did I deny his needs, and the Lord brought STRONG conviction! Strong enough that I never want to do that again!!!
Changing her way of thinking about sex will help this wife out…sex is a gift from God, we are to be thankful, and not spurn our husband’s advances. We would never purposely spurn the Lord’s love toward us either, right?? I’m not always in the mood, but when does it say in God’s Word to go with your emotions??
Wow, thanks for sharing!
Thank you greatly for this article Jay Dee. I will be sharing this with my husband as he is an extreme gatekeeper and doesn’t see anything wrong with refusing sex. According to him it’s okay to say no to sex for any reason and that doing so is not depriving your spouse as long as you have a reason to say no… which all sounds good until he says that “not feeling like it” is a perfectly valid reason.
Anyway, will definitely pass this article on to hubby.
Words like ‘force myself’ really show what is going on in her mind. Do you have to force yourself to eat chocolate (or whatever you would consider a treat) when you don’t feel hungry? It’s a rather selfish attitude that only takes into consideration if they personally feel horny or not and give no weight at all to the needs, emotions and feelings of their spouse.
At the same time, if her husband isn’t skilled or doesn’t try to get her aroused but just uses her body to pleasure himself, he is helping to create that attitude in her. If she is faking enjoying it to get it over with, then she is preventing him from learning how to make sex a joy for her.
I don’t think think the example of the chocolate is a good one. It assumes desire to eat is there and that your body will cooperate in digesting the chocolate. If the physical desire isn ‘t there for whatever reason then the woman has a harder journey.
I know my body pretty well and I know some situations my body won’t cooperate. I think women can be responsive with their desire but there is not alway a guarantee. If there is no physical response because of illness”severe” or otherwise, pain or fatigue, one’s mind can’t always transcend those situations. As it was alluded to earlier it seems like we would need more information about what the frequency is now.
It seems like the lower desire spouse is not allowed to be honest about what situations might be difficult for them…like the post about being wiliing to be woken up in the middle of the night and being tired the next day. We would not expect a truck driver to be able to counteract the effects of lack of sleep simply by having a positive attitude.
I would think it would be more helpful to talk with her husband to perhaps identify what circumstances either lowered or heightened her desire and try to keep that in mind for the future.
Yes, sometimes intercourse is not a possibility for various reasons…but that doesn’t mean you have to eschew all sexual activity. It doesn’t take much energy just to stay with your spouse while they masturbate, just so they can feel connected.
Plus, I think you missed the point. It’s not about sex…it’s about the relationship. If the spouse isn’t interested in staying emotionally connected…then I think there’s a larger issue in play. I think LatterDay Marriage was saying that sex should be approached with delight, not with the feeling of approaching a duty or an obligation. And that simply takes making a choice.
I mean, I hate doing dishes, but I can decide to wash them and grumble about it, or refuse to do them, or I can decide this is something I can do to serve my spouse, to show her I love her and that I care, and I want to do something for her. So, I put on an audio book, and I decide to enjoy my time of washing dishes.
Of course, that’s much easier to do when the rest of the relationship is stable and keeps you constantly feeling loved. Trying to pull an attitude shift like that without the emotional underpinnings of a strong marriage won’t work well. That’s when people start feeling like they are being taken for granted, and they start accusing me of telling them just to stuff their emotions. It takes a MUCH stronger character to be able to pull it off without that emotional support. Not impossible, but incredibly difficult. If you can learn to rely on God for that support, you can manage it. Without that…I don’t think it’s possible.
Is there a balance here what if one spouse wants it breakfast, lunch , and dinner and the other is good every other day?
Yes, I think there is a balance. However, I don’t think it’s as simple as a basic formula. After all, if you are retired, or work from home, what’s the harm in sex 3 times a day? However, if you are skipping work to have sex on a daily basis, then you might have a problem.
Plus, I think many people may think they want sex 3 times a day, and then when they get it…they realize it’s too much for them. I think the sad thing is that many spouses aren’t even willing to have a serious discussion about it, neither the high-drive nor the low-drive side. Too often, it turns into name-calling and belittling, or stonewalling and shutting down. I think if spouses were more open to discussing it like adults, using good communication skills, and doing it with love and compassion, then they could work out their own balance.
My wife is definitely the gatekeeper of sex. always has been. It is a struggle for her to have sex 2 times a week. Here preference is about 2 times a month. We she says no, she means no way. After many years, we pretty much only have sex when she wants it, rarely when I do.
I try to be a very generous lover and she nearly always fully enjoys it when we have sex. But once we do it,
she is satisfied for a long time.
It has been very tough, I feel empty sometimes. Everything else is good, but sex.
My wife is an intense gatekeeper.
Been married for three years and while praying this morning, as I pray every day for this, I came
up with this prayer.
I pray that my wife will open her gate, so that I may come in, then she can close it. I pray that I
can come inside and spend the rest of my life inside her gate. When I am inside, I pray that I will
experience the marriage that I prayed I would have during the celibacy of our engagement. I pray
that my wife and I will experience FREE LOVE and UNLIMITED SEX between us. We will experience sex
to our hearts’ content and keep having sex until our physical bodies are not able to keep having
sex. We will freely give and freely take and there will be no limits on what we can do with each
other. Our desire for each other will always be satisfied.
I pray that the sex we have will give us a desire for more and will give strength to our marriage,
so it becomes as strong as iron and steel. I pray that the love that explodes from the rapture of
our pleasure will overwhelm us with feelings of love, passion and desire for each other.
Inside the gate, I pray that our marriage will be as pleasing as Eden was before the Fall.
Dear God, please keep that gate locked, so the World with its temptations and deceiving evil
spirits will not come in to our special place of Godly love.
I thank you for my wife and I pray that the pleasure and love that my wife and I will have for each
other will be more intense than any marriage since the one at Eden.
Please give me patience to wait for the fulfillment of my prayer and please answer “yes” to my
prayer. Please give her the passion and desire to seek her own pleasure as well as mine.
I pray that I will always love my wife more than I love anyone else except for my love of Jesus. I pray that she will love me more than anyone else except for her love of Jesus.
I pray that this prayer will come to pass by the power of your Holy Spirit.
In Jesus Name I pray.