I received this question about a week ago from our anonymous Have A Question page:
My husband is not saved, so his perception of sex is a lot different than mine. Now don’t get me wrong, after 12 years of marriage, 2 kids, and menopause, we have an excellent sex life, but his attitude has always been that it’s just a physical release. Although it feels awesome, my view has been that it is not only a physical connection between husband and wife, but a spiritual one as well. It is a time for us to become “”one flesh”” and grow more intimate. His view on sex is more like the world’s at times and he will often refer to it as the ever infamous “”F”” word, which makes it cheap and dirty. I should state that this is not my perception, but his actual words about sex. In the 12 years we have been together, we have truly only made love less than 10 times and the rest have been just the physical release. Like I said, I don’t mind the pleasure or having fun part of sex, but there are many times it seems shallow and cheap. How is a believing wife to address a severe lack of intimacy that she so desperately craves despite a fairly active sex life?
So, how do you turn sex into a spiritual connection with an unsaved spouse? I’ll address that in a minute. First, I want to tackle of a couple of sub points.
Sex doesn’t always have to be for emotional connection
His view on sex is more like the world’s at times and he will often refer to it as the ever infamous “”F”” word, which makes it cheap and dirty.
Of course his view of sex is the world’s. That said, there’s nothing wrong with sex as a simple physical activity. Recreation sex, in my books, is perfectly okay. It’s not cheap or dirty, it’s just fun. I know it might not be the whole romantic emotional experience you are wanting, but that doesn’t make it bad.
Emotional connection is often an individual experience
In the 12 years we have been together, we have truly only made love less than 10 times and the rest have been just the physical release.
I’m also curious how you gauge these experiences. So far as I can tell, there is nothing that makes one experience “making love” vs another one. In fact, I’d hazard a guess and say that it’s more an individual experience. One spouse may find one experience really connecting and another found it just to be a good release.
The same thing happens in church services. One member will say “I really felt God was in the room” while another feels completely abandoned by God. Since His is everywhere…it’s more about your awareness of Him than about whether or not God is actually there. You cannot manufacture God’s presence, any more than you can manufacture a “making love” experience. If you feel disconnected, I suggest that a mindset shift may be in order on your side.
What does darkness have to do with the light?
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-17
Lastly, he’s not saved. You’re craving a spiritual connection, because it’s not there. It can’t be. He doesn’t have the same spiritual framework as you do. Arguably his entire framework for life and existence is radically different. I’m sorry, but that’s what you lose when you don’t have a spouse of the same faith. I’m sure some people think I’m not being compassionate, and that’s not so. I’ve seen family members decide to love non-believers. I get how difficult it is. However, you made the choice, and I’m not going to excuse that. As it stands, the two solutions are:
- He accepts Christ
- You abandon Christ
Unfortunately you can’t force the first, and the second is trading eternal paradise for a hope of short term happiness now. That’s why marrying outside the faith is so dangerous. In fact, our denomination won’t even marry you to someone in another denomination. Too often one spouse abandons the truth. I’ve seen that in my own family. A great many of others lead to divorce, which I’ve also seen in family. One of my sister-in-laws is going through that now. I don’t think that’s a viable solution though, because the Bible is clear that’s not an option:
And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. – 1 Corinthians 7:13
In other words, we need to hold out for a hope they will meet Christ through us.
What do you do about spiritual intimacy?
You accept that you may never see it in your marriage. You accepted that, perhaps unknowingly, when you married him. Even if he was a belief when you married him, you accepted to stay with him through the good and bad. Well, this is the bad.
Instead, grow your relationship with Christ. This will have two benefits:
- By becoming more Christ-like you will perhaps make Christianity more attractive for your spouse. Let him see Christ in you, every day. Let him fall in love with Christ with you as His ambassador.
- Christ will help you carry though when its lonely. God is all you need. It may not be ideal, but He’s enough.
Furthermore, there are things you can do in your marriage.
Firstly, realize that while you can rely on God to fulfill your spiritual intimacy needs, your husband has no one to turn to. You may feel alone, but your husband is truly alone (if only by his own choice). All you have to do is be more aware of God, whom you already believe in. He needs to bridge an incredible chasm of unbelief in order to reach out to God. That’s not easy. He may not express this need, and he may not even be aware of it. But, it’s there. We’re created to want that spiritual connection. Unfortunately, we often try to fulfill it the wrong way … or drown it out.
Secondly, respect him. Just because he’s not where you are doesn’t mean he’s less valuable as a person. I heard from somewhere “Inside every man is a king and a kid. Whichever one you speak to will respond.” If you treat him as an inferior because he’s not saved, then you will be inviting contempt into your marriage. Typically, marriages don’t survive long after contempt starts to set in. Don’t let it gain a foothold in your marriage. Rather, submit to your husband:
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. (1 Peter 3:1–2, NIV)
The Bible is clear that submission is not contingent on your husband being a believer. Of course, he can’t overrule God’s laws, but in all other things, do your best. Witness to him with your life more than your words. By submitting to your husband, you are modeling for him how to submit to God. It’s not a display of weakness, but of strength.
Lastly, never stop praying for him. For him. Not for him to be saved so your marriage is better. Pray because you want him to know Christ. Not so that sex will have this spiritual connection. That’s not the priority here, though I know it might feel like it some times. Let’s not let our sexual desires overshadow our kingdom tasks.
I hope that helps, and if any of my readers are in similar situations, I welcome your input (and others too of course).Have a Question? Ask it here!
17 thoughts on “How to have spiritual intimacy with an unsaved spouse”
I love this answer. Thank you.
You’re quite welcome!
If the wife came to Christ after the marriage, she can’t feel guilty for being “unequally yoked”
No argument here. Did someone mention guilt?
I agree! I was a no believer. I was a big doubter and idolater. My husband was a Christian but never expressed his faith or tried to share it with the family. I came to be saved on my own and have been trying to follow these very steps as well. My husband seems to be coming back I to his faith and has agreed to start going to church with me and the kids. We have been married for almost 4 years, together for 5 and friends for 14 years. I recently discovered that my husband has been unfaithful but he seeks forgiveness and I care for him deeply. He has also been down a long road and has had his faith tested. My goal is to show him Christ in me and in my forgiving him. My goal is to show him the Lord’s grace and love. Hope this helps someone!
Arrg. For some reason I cant edit my name. -Bijauna
That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing!
When my parents married, my mother was away from the Lord. My father went into the army and when he came back, she was going to church. This caused untold problems in our home. But, my mother said she was praying that he would find the Lord before he died. It was a 60 year prayer, but he found the Lord in his 80’s. They had an active sex life. (I know this because I walked in the back door and heard them one night.) BTW all their children and most of their grandchildren are actively involved in Christianity.
I think there’s a big difference between having sex and making love. For years our sex life was – just sex. I would use dirty words, fantasize, ogle her boobs or pussy, or whatever, to keep it going. But in my older years there’s a lot less physical pressure to have sex, and I have become more loving. Looking at her face, stroking her hair, telling her I love her during orgasm … she loves it. I do too. Wish I’d started it earlier in our marriage.
This is true.
JayDee, I like your comparison to two congregants not getting the same thing out of a church service. I really feel in my marriage it is more about physical release. My husband has even said, “you keep saying you want to make love. I just want to have sex.” (Another time he used, “get my rocks off,” as his phrasing.
It has gotten to the point where even I just go into it getting my climax as quickly as possible. It doesn’t feel much of a leap up from masturbating. But, it is what it is.
I am not even sure what my husband’s salvation standing is.
Best thing this wife can do is pray for intimacy. Pray to be filled.
Another thing to do is find a Christian friend that she can form a relationship with, praying, Bible reading, etc together.
I am coming to accept that in a world full of sin and worldliness, it is becoming quite prominent for Christians to experience lack. Throughout history our Christian forefathers and mothers endured lack of jobs, societal positions, care, rights. Others endured prison, martyrdom, hiding, civil disobedience. What we lack on earth we gain in heaven.
And where marriage intimacy is lacking, fill that void with intimacy with Christ.
That was a very insightful answer. A lot depends on the individuality of the couple. We were married for 4 years before I became a disciple of Christ, and it was another 18 before D did. I was lead to believe that there would be some super spiritual connection during sex after he was saved; that I [or both of us] was missing something because he was not a believer. Time has proved this untrue for us, there were no super orgasmic experiences due to his salvation. I had been trying to make the Words about sex say something they didn’t say. When I stopped listening to everyone else’s ideas about what it “should” be and started trusting God at His Word, for my [own] husband, I learned that my view had been actually victorian, not biblical.
We believe sex to be primal and what makes it ‘holy’ is not the act of coupling per se but that you couple with the same person, year after year, and never leave. Becoming one flesh involves far more than the act of sex.
One week we had someone say “This church has lost their calling. You can tell by the worship that God’s presence is not longer here.” and in the very same service someone else crying because they felt God so strongly.
It happens sometimes during sex too. Your spouse can have a huge intense orgasm and so that sessions feels fulfilling and amazing to them. But, maybe for you the orgasm just sort sort of “meh”, which isn’t to say it wasn’t good … just not the same as for your spouse.
I in both cases, it’s more about our awareness and engagement.
Exactly. It is rare that we orgasm at the same time or with equal quality. In this regard the culmination of the act of sex is singular and private; regardless of being a believer or not. In some cases orgasms are so intense that conscious awareness is diminished, it was irrelevant if D was a believer or not.
One of the most insightful articles I’ve ever seen on this topic. Thanks, also, for validating recreational sex with my bride. I have read and ignored some ultra restrictive guidelines in marriage from well-respected source in my denomination even.
The reader’s questions were well phrased and your responses thoughtfully touched on each issue that was raised. I suspect there are many who share her concerns and could benefit from what was written. I am one. Thank you for a terrific post!
Wow, high praise. Thanks Barry! Welcome to the community. First time commenting?
Yes; and you earned it. 🙂
I am the unsaved one in this scenario, which this is probably not everyday you see the non believer seeking answers here. I was raised in the church, I went to Christian school for grade school, and I turned away as a teenager because I felt it had been forced on me for so long. I wanted a chance to see what all was out there and make my own decision of what my faith was in.
My husband was brought up with decent, (More than decent, good, great!) God fearing folks who raised an excellent son, man, and father. I am truly blessed to have him, I have been the ultimate test to him and I fear I have spoken to the child for several years while I was in a serious depression. I am recovered and trying to speak to the kind now instead, and heal wounds I created while in what I can only liken to sleepwalking or feeling like what I imagine being a zombie might be like. Going through the motions but not really being present in your normal capacity. When I came out of the depression I found out I was experiencing it due to starting menopause a solid 25 years premature at 27. Now at 32 I know that’s what I was experiencing and causing my depression and terrible moods.
I made a serious amends to him, and am trying to show him how I am changing and have changed and that he can be who he was originally with me again because I am back to who I am when not in the throes of severe depression. I am so ashamed to admit that we were not intimate for 2 years, (we thought it was a medication we both started that caused us both to lose our libido) I cry at the thought of the wasted time. I have an intensified awareness of death and a fear of loss since this premature ovarian failure was diagnosed. I feel like my femininity and womanhood has died, like I am a 60 year old woman now trapped in this 32 year old body. I have realized lately the poisonous side of feminism and how it has stolen men’s natural place in life. I have realized that showing him my never ending love is NOT the same as showing him my respect, and that I needed to change that and FAST! (I am seriously struggling with how, his biggest complaint is my body language. I still don’t even realize I’m doing anything but talking until he’s angry with me. Even trying to be hyper aware of it isn’t working. I don’t know what to do and instead of healing things, I am causing him to lose his attraction and passion for me. The fire that was in his eyes just in March when we reconnected and felt like we were a brand new couple again is gone. Nothing I do to try and stoke that fire works, I cannot seem to stir up any want or need for me in him. I have gone on a major soul search since March, lost 65 lbs, am skinnier and prettier than I have been in 10 years, I am in such better spirits, but I cannot figure this out. I know the problem lies within me. I am doing or saying something that is making me ugly inside and out to him, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what. He lies to me if he thinks it will upset me, so I can’t even ask him and get an honest answer. I have tried to show him he can talk to me and be honest again, that I’m not in the crazy state I was, that it wasn’t normal, it was an imbalance of hormones that isn’t out of whack anymore. It wasn’t just because I’m a jerk, or selfish or a bad person, but it was a legitimate medical issue. I have cried over 400 times since March 6th, 2017, the day I snapped out of depression. They’re called crying spells, and he sees it as me being unhappy which is a direct statement that he is a failure in his mind. As I hear most men feel.
Anyhow, I thought what better way to boost him up, help him recover his self worth, self esteem, and respect for himself like giving him my submission. I had no idea it was a Christian principle, I just thought it was what needed to be done. He has more than earned it, he deserves it, and I want nothing more than to humbly serve him as his 1st mate while he steers our ship. He is a good, honorable man, we just celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary with zero infidelities, (even during the 2 years of zero sex, we own a business from home and spend most of our time together, so I KNOW there have been zero affairs then and now)) really we can count the number of big, serious fights on 2 hands. That is pretty darn good for almost 12 years together. However, he doesn’t want my submission, he doesn’t know what to do with it, or how to start leading. He grew up in the feminist era of women don’t submit to men, men respect women.
I asked him what his faith meant to him, I was curious if he is Christian because that is how he was raised or if he had a spiritual awakening of his own. I was thinking while he was in some troubled times before we met that maybe he had come to know God in those times, that is something I absolutely can understand and respect. (Not that he needs my validation towards how he believes within his religion, of course!) I must admit that I was disappointed with his answer of just because he grew up with it. All those times he spoke trying to wear me down and he was showing no passion for it or where it comes from, no conviction, like it was passed to him like grandma’s old afghan. I am a very spiritual person, but in a more cosmic sense than organized religion. I absolutely believe in a higher power, just not the way structured religion lays it out. I was underwhelmed by his response. I don’t know what to do next. I’ve read so many books, he has too, he wants this to work, we both know we are meant for each other, quitting is not an option. We are renewing our vows for our 10th anniversary and I’m having the J.P. add back in “obey” to the vows. Even if he doesn’t know what to do with it, I still lead my life “As if” As if he was leading and I am submitting in hopes of him easing into it and taking off from there. Sorry this is so long, I just felt compelled to talk about this here for some reason, and I’ve been trying to listen and follow the intuitions I have. Thank you for a thought provoking article!
Wow. Lots going on there. Some thoughts:
1) It will take him time to trust that you are … stable. Give him that time.
2) If you want him to lead more, ask questions. What do you want? How do you want? When do you want? He can respect you while leading. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. But he probably doesn’t know ho to lead, so you might have to actively follow for a while 🙂
3) I’d say the vast majority of Christians are Christians because they grew up in the church. They don’t have a conversion experience and many don’t have a real passion. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe or isn’t sincere. But, I get what you mean. He probably knows who God is, but doesn’t really know God. You know?
4) Religion is a structure designed to foster real intimacy with God. However, sometimes we focus too much on the structure, and yeah, then religion becomes a bad thing. I understand why you might feel you don’t want a part of it. But don’t think that being a Christian, being spiritual and existing within the structure can’t all line up. Ideally, the structure should fall away and you do the things because they’re not, not because they’re the structure. I wrote more on that here.
I hope that helps a bit. The only thing I could suggest is that you may want to look into our coaching. That might help you guys work through some of these things. Send me an email if you want to discuss it.