6 minute read

Are You Pursuing Sexual Intimacy or Just Sexual Activity?

Last Updated: September 9, 2021

Juli Slattery

Dr. Juli Slattery is a psychologist and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. a ministry dedicated to reclaiming God's design for sexuality. Juli has written ten books, including Rethinking Sexuality, and is the host of the Java with Juli podcast.

This post has been updated as of September 2020.

A growing trend in our culture is the separation of sex from intimacy. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the “hook up” culture, described by Dr. Lisa Wade in her book The Great American Hookup. Dr. Wade explains that sex has been so divorced from relationship that a sexual experience can actually propel people to be more relationally distant than being a symbol of or vehicle for intimacy. She writes, “The rule is to be less close after the hookup than before, at least for a time. If students were friends, they should act like acquaintances. If they were acquaintances, they should act like strangers. And if they were strangers, they shouldn’t acknowledge each other’s existence at all.”[1]

By contrast, I believe that sex was designed to be inseparable from intimacy. It is an expression of the intimate knowledge that comes within a committed relationship. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “sexual intimacy” is the word yada. This word means to deeply or intimately know someone. It is the same Hebrew word that is used to describe God’s intimate knowledge of His people and our longing to know God. For example, Psalm 139 is David’s reflection on God’s deep knowledge of Him. This word yada appears five times in Psalm 139, “You have searched me, Lord, and you yada me” (Ps. 139:1).  Not only is this truth written in the pages of the Bible, but it is also written within our bodies. Sexual intimacy is more than a physical act. It mysteriously reaches into our relational and spiritual beings.

Has the Hook Up Culture Invaded Your Marriage?

You might think that this trend of separating sex from sexual intimacy is only happening within the “hook up” culture, but I believe it’s also happening in marriages. Most married people know that sex is important to their relationship, so they may find time to share their bodies once or twice a week. But there is far more to sexual intimacy than just getting naked with one another.

A couple can be married for years, even decades, without ever taking steps towards true intimacy and deeply “knowing” each other sexually. This can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, while sharing their bodies, a husband and wife may nurture separate fantasies to become aroused. Or maybe one of them has experienced sexual trauma and learned to manage anxiety through dissociating during sex. Couples can also avoid intimacy because of unresolved conflicts or simply because they don’t have the energy to offer more than their bodies to one another.

The problem with this approach to sex is that what was meant to unite a couple can begin to divide them. When two people have sex without pursuing intimacy, emotional and spiritual conflicts begin to undermine their sex life with no resolution. One person may begin to feel more like a sex object than an intimate partner. Eventually, the couple will begin patterns of coercing, manipulating and avoiding within their sexual relationship.

4 Ways to Pursue Sexual Intimacy, Not Just Sexual Activity

In my experience as a clinical psychologist, the couples who have the best sex are those who truly pursue yada. They understand that sexual intimacy is more than a sensual experience. It is a journey of growth, expression and passion that can forge their hearts in a way that nothing else can.

Here are four things that can help you and your spouse pursue sexual intimacy, not just sexual activity.

1. Remember intimacy is a marathon, not a sprint.

Our culture has trained us to think about “great sex” as a momentary experience. It’s all about compatibility and the passion of the moment. Yet true sexual satisfaction isn’t what happens during a few sexual encounters, but through building and sustaining a long-term sexual relationship.

In 1994, researchers from the University of Chicago conducted one of the most comprehensive and respected studies of sexual patterns and trends. Shockingly they found that the most sexually satisfied people are those within in a long-term committed relationship. Regardless of what you might see on television, sexual satisfaction is built upon trust, commitment and consistency, not beautiful bodies, kinky techniques, and sexual chemistry.

I often tell newlyweds to approach sex as if they are opening up a box of Legos. If they expect to find an assembled product, they will probably be disappointed. The fun of Legos is learning to become an expert builder. The magic is in the making. The same is true of sex. Intimacy results as a couple learns to make great love with each other over time. Even the obstacles you face with your partner can be an invitation to learn and grow together. Couples that have been married for many decades often say their sex life just keeps getting better with time. Why? Because they have become experts at communicating, resolving conflict, and learning each other’s bodies. They have stored up memories of laughter and passion that make their intimate connection meaningful.

2. Commit to growing and learning together.

Sexual intimacy doesn’t just happen but results from investment. The most significant thing you can do to build sexual intimacy is not done between the sheets. It is the commitment to learn and communicate with your partner.

Intimate couples are those who have been in the trenches together. They have addressed problems head-on instead of avoiding them. They talk about sexual temptations, desires, difficulties and wounds. They have built trust to share their most vulnerable thoughts and struggles.

I think of Justin and Shelby who sought healing together for Shelby’s history of sexual trauma. Justin didn’t think of it as “his wife’s problem” but as their challenge as a couple. Together, they learned how to identify triggers and how to make their sexual relationship a safe place.

Or Lynn and Jonathan. In the early years of their marriage, Jonathan hid his porn use from his wife. Eventually, Lynn discovered porn on his computer and confronted him with anger and tears of betrayal. What could have torn this couple apart became a journey of intimacy, including confession, forgiveness, accountability and creating a pattern of honesty about weakness and temptation.

Every barrier you face in your sexuality is an opportunity to build true intimacy, rather than hiding from your spouse. If you are in a season of challenges, get the help you need. If sex is just boring, read a great book together (like Doug Rosenau’s A Celebration of Sex) to reignite your passion.

3. Promise never to use sex as a weapon.

In most relationships, one person has a stronger sex drive than the other. Over time, couples develop patterns of pursuit and rejection, avoidance and resentment. What was meant to build intimacy becomes a powerful weapon to divide.

One of the most damaging elements of this pattern is that one person begins to demand sex from the other. Some may even quote the Bible, coercing through the message that “this is your duty.” In I Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul writes about the importance of sexual intimacy within marriage. However, we must remember that marriage was created to be an expression of God’s covenant love. As Paul writes later in that same letter, “Love is patient, kind, does not seek its own way.” Married couples should make sexual intimacy a priority, not just having sex.

Intimacy requires trust and sensitivity to each other’s needs. As soon as one person uses sex to manipulate or punish the other person, sex is no longer about intimacy or love.

4. Make sexual intimacy a priority.

After a full day of work, parenting, and daily life, you’re exhausted. You fall into bed, excited to sleep only to find that your partner is excited about something else. Inwardly you groan, “Really? Sex is the last thing on my mind.” While this kind of sexual encounter is bound to be part of sex in marriage, it shouldn’t be too frequent. Having sex doesn’t take a ton of energy, but sexual intimacy requires that you be fully present. This is one of the negatives of those who encourage people to always say yes when a spouse asks for sex. You begin to establish a habit of sex around a sexual release rather than a sexual relationship. In fact, building sexual intimacy may mean saying “no” to sexual encounters that undermine relationship and trust.

Building sexual intimacy means you make time to anticipate, to enjoy each other, to communicate and to enter into the passion. It also requires that you work to address harmful patterns and triggers that keep you from feeling safe and valued. This won’t happen unless you proactively set aside time to build intimacy.

The Peril of “No Strings Attached Sex”

It is sadly ironic that our culture talks endlessly about sex, but most people have never experienced the fullness of what it was intended to be. Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, had his fill of every sexual expression available yet lacked the mystery of yada. Near the end of his life he reflected, “It’s the key to my life, the need to feel loved… I think I’ve been searching to fill that hole that was left there in early childhood. I think that what I’m probably doing is avoiding being hurt again. Safety in numbers.”

The greatest peril within a culture of “no strings attached sex” is that we become splintered people, believing that a physical act can replace the relational and spiritual intimacy we long for… even within marriage.

[1]  Lisa Wade, American Hookup. p 47.

  • Comments on: Are You Pursuing Sexual Intimacy or Just Sexual Activity?
    1. RJB3369 on

      There is another extreme at the opposite end of “demanding sex” that I suffer from. That is the extreme of believing that I am so unworthy of my wife’s sexual attention that I become a beggar. I avoid asking for it because I am afraid of rejection or afraid of the accusation of “only caring about sex.”

      Men are expected to be the initiators and my wife takes advantage of that expectation by making sure never to initiate sex herself and then making herself and the marriage bed as unwelcoming as possible. And because I lack the confidence and boldness necessary to cut through her obstacles, I resign myself to sexlessness and the accompanying moral problems that stem from sexless marriage.

      I don’t want to be that bullying husband who demands sex and quotes the Bible to manipulate it out of my wife. So I do the complete opposite. Approach her about it under only the most optimal circumstances when all the stars are aligned. With 3 kids and two in-laws living with us, you can imagine how often “optimal circumstances” occur. Once every few months is about it.

      And your advice to me is what? Be bolder? Be MORE demanding? Or is it the usual smorgasbord of choreplay, date nights, cutesy cards, or some other combination of Hallmark channel style romance, where the kiss is when the movie ends. This has led to me being a great girlfriend to my wife but hardly the kind of manly stud that is capable of getting her libido fired up.

      One of these days, a Christian blogger is going to address men like me instead of the stereotypical alpha male bully that occupies the fevered imaginations of angry feminists who talk only of “toxic masculinity.” They say “Nice guys finish last.” So far when it comes to the marriage bed, I’d say they were right.

      Reply
      • Jon on

        RJB,

        Thanks for your comment. In marriage, many times my wife and I experience this cycle. Because we are both busy and tired, she comes across as tired and disinterested. I find myself trying to be kind, compassionate as a way to create the best environment for sexual intimacy to occur. Rather than telling you what to do, let me ask you a few questions:

        1. How do you model Christ loving and sacrificing Himself for his bride? In what ways does your wife feel most loved?
        2. How will you communicate your desire to enjoy your wife intimately more often? What is her expectations?
        3. How will you create opportunities for more alone time? Maybe a monthly overnight time just the two of you?

        For my 40th birthday, my wife asked me what I wanted to do. I took a risk and said, “Really, I would like a weekend alone with you to explore some different sexual positions to get out of our routine.” At first, she was hesitant but saw my desire for greater intimacy. That weekend created more openness about how we feel about sex, what we like or don’t like.

      • Greg Mongeon on

        RJB3369…man I hear you and I feel your heart in your remarks. I am not a counselor or a professional that has credentials to prove to you that I have the authority to be taken as the final word, however, I was in your very same place not long ago in my own marriage.

        I will make remarks to you assuming that you are my brother in Christ and have accepted the Lord as you Savior. btw…I’m NOT a pastor!

        Secondly, it is so obvious to me that you LONG to be with your wife and want to experience a mutual intimacy WITH her.

        Here is the shift that happened in my life. I realized that I was allowing my wife’s actions or the lack of her actions to have authority of how I was feeling. If we had sex, I was THE MAN and was flying on cloud 9. If I asked for sex and was told no, I had this horrible script that I perfected in my mind about how she used sex to punish me and that she doesn’t even like sex. Holy smokes bro…you can see where that led!

        I grew up in a very RELIGIOUS house and never understood what being a Christian really was. Even after I got saved I would say “I’m a sinner in need of a Savior!” Wrong Answer!!

        Wow, God is so patient. Fast forward many many years…I got saved 12 years ago and this realization is within the last 6 months. God has truly revealed to me MY IDENTITY. I am NO LONGER a sinner in need of a Savior….I am a Son of the Most High God. I am Holy, Righteous and Redeemed.

        Here is the point RJB3369. You are asking your wife to be your God. She and her flesh is/are an idol to you. With tears in my eyes…btw, I’m not a sissy I’m 6’3″ 245 pounds (maybe just a softie!)…my prayer is that you could pursue Christ and your understanding of Who YOU are in HIM as passionately as you are your wife….and I guarantee….it will change for you. Pretty sure the Bible says…Seek First the Kingdom of God.

        I do not want to come across as harsh, and I apologize if this sounds as such. I just know that your wife loves you and your God loves you more than you wife is able to love you.

        Practically, here is what I did.

        1) I started reading and studying the Bible everyday. I was not raised this way. I was raised that I am not smart enough to read and comprehend it. Our little church reads about 1/2 chapter per day as a church family and then I ponder what it means to me as I correlate it to a Wiersbe Commentary.

        2) I was the King of NO EMPATHY…prior to this step. I am a total driver and have owned and ran many large companies and I used to care less how people felt….until I started praying for them. I now have a list on my iPad that has prayer requests on it and everyday after I do my bible reading, I pray through my list. ONLY God could change a heart in this way…and I know HE can do the same for you.

        3) Finally, scripture memorization. What we think about comes about. Start simple. One verse a month. I have the Fruits of the Holy Spirit plastered on my bathroom mirror.

        My prayer for you is that you would be overwhelmed with Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

        Please feel free to reach out to me because I know what it was like to feel like you are fighting this fight alone.

      • Hunter on

        This resonates with me, so I’ll answer you, because God has words on this. Your problems are not your wife’s fault. You said, “I resign myself to sexlessness and the accompanying moral problems that stem from sexless marriage.” That’s a lie. The same lie I swallowed for 20 years and it kept me enslaved to porn. You basically just said that the reason you have “moral problems” (which I can only assume means some form(s) or sex addiction – porn, masturbation, prostitution, etc.) is because of your wife. In other words, you just said that your sin is your wife’s fault. I used to believe that my porn addiction was my Dad’s fault for his lack of guidance, my wife’s fault for her lack of sex drive, my testosterone’s fault because it was too high, society’s fault because of it’s preoccupation with sex… As long as you believe that and stay in that blame game, you will stay on an empty witch hunt that will keep you addicted, always looking for more improper salve for your pain and always looking for a scapegoat to blame your sin on. You’ve resigned yourself to continue to sin, is basically what you’re saying, because it gives you a semblance of control. Because you feel completely out of control in your marriage. Moral deviance doesn’t result from anything outside ourselves. Jesus was very clear that what makes us unclean doesn’t come from outside, but from the heart. If any of us want to be free, we must have the courage to begin to look at the sin in our own hearts, regardless of how hurtful our lives may be. My sin is my fault, nobody else’s. It is that one concept that, if accepted, can actually be a catalyst to freedom in Jesus. Jesus can’t do anything with a person who refuses to admit that their sin is squarely their fault, a result of a sinful heart that neither you nor I have the power to change.

      • Nate Meyer on

        Agreed…same issue for me is being hesitant to pursue sex with my wife, as my efforts go unnoticed, or I give up when she is lying in bed facing the other way as her body language says no. Where is the advice for guys in this situation?

      • M9 on

        At the end of the day, RJB, you are singularly desiring sexual activity as opposed to sexual intimacy. I know this to be true because you disparage the “smorgasbord” of “choreplay” etc.

        My marriage has been filled with periods of pursing only sexual activity. I will not go into specific details as to why this was but I had no issue being bold and asking my wife but all it did was make her feel guilty because she was dealing with some of her own problems.

        I was blindsided because I never took the time to understand her or her problems. I realized that after having kids our routine (after they went to bed) was very separate. We also had in laws live with us and it does present an obstacle. It also enabled us to grow further apart.

        I think many Christian men are confused with the idea of having to be some super sexy stud of a man that their wife is just fawning over but I’m afraid that was a fantasy put into our minds through TV, movies, porn, etc.

        Look no further than 1Cor13 and Eph5 to see what love and what being a man is. Eph5 says to submit to your wives as Christ did the church. Serve your wife, even if it isn’t reciprocated as Christ did the church. Christ even died for all people for all sin even those who willingly reject him!

        1Cor 13 says that our love is a poor reflection in a dirty mirror of what God’s love for us is. Our marriages are supposed to be an example of Christ’s love for us, albeit poor.

      • Nancy on

        My heart goes out to you. I don’t have any brilliant words for you. But I can say I used to avoid sex at all cost in the beginning of our marriage. For me, I had some core heart wounds about my body and sex. Working through those wounds is what helped me to be more open to my husband. He was also very clear and open about how much my rejection hurt him. I pray you and your wife can work through whatever the obstacles are.

      • Jadegreen on

        I’m not an expert by any means, but I can assure you this is not typically healthy female behavior. Don’t coerce your wife or be more pushy, seek Christian marriage counseling. You shouldn’t have to live this way. Your wife might have some unknown difficulty.

      • Patrick on

        Same situation here, bro. Thanks for articulating this. I know men who’ve committed or attempted suicide and others who’ve left their marriage. Long term stuffing of rejection is not good.

      • Someone’s Wife on

        Wow!! Thank SO MUCH for sharing this. A proper balance in this conversation is so crucial…

      • T.Gies on

        We have 5 kids in our house – life always has something else to throw at you, right? Nice guys don’t have to finish last but they do have to communicate to make a successful team plan. Just like planning date nights to invest in relationships, or planning to go grocery shopping for veggies, or planning to get exercise sometime…. is important, if life is busy it can help to make a plan ahead of time. Could you talk with your wife and say “I really want to invest in our relationship and feel close to you… is there one or two days a week that we can plan to be sexually intimate?” When life is busy and you are tired, sometimes it helps a person ration their energy when they have a plan ahead of time. Nice guys and nice girls have to talk and make a plan that suits your team of two.

      • Anonymous on

        RJB3369, I’m really sorry to hear of your struggle in your marriage and I will pray for your situation.
        I’m no marriage counselor, however, I am married and I felt I might have some advice. These are things you might or might not have already thought of.
        1. I would get a pastor and/or marriage therapist involved if at all possible. The likelihood of your confronting the situation with existing confidence struggles might lead into more conflict rather than resolution. That’s not to say that you don’t try to build your confidence, as well as, open communication to the best of your ability.
        2. When it comes to the in-laws living with you, I’d recommend establishing the expectation that they either help watch the kids or help pay for a sitter so you and your wife can have time alone to build your relationship and intimacy with each other.

        I hope this helps and that you all find a resolution soon. Lord bless

    2. r mott on

      some of the key elements from the article are: sexual satisfaction is built upon trust, commitment, consistency, communicating, resolving conflict, and learning because these characteristics build true intimacy. from the article ” intimacy is more than a physical act. It mysteriously reaches into our relational and spiritual beings”. if a couple is connected at the heart spiritually then the gift sex will be natural and as simple as a hug.

      no where does the article say hallmark cards, roses, and gifts. these are worldly object, gimmicks and do nothing to feed or connect to the soul.

      Reply
    3. Ryan on

      Hey RJB3369,

      I can completely empathize with you. This past weekend my wife and I had yet another conversation about this topic, and though I was disheartened some by the lack of physical intimacy, I felt the Lord calling me to be patient with her and this situation. I won’t spell out the details of my marriage here, but sex isn’t easy for her. At all. It takes a lot to get her comfortable with the idea, so for me, patience is definitely a virtue I have to cling to. Yes I get frustrated, and yes, we have two kids so time isn’t always in abundance to be physical (even if she’s in the mood).

      But I want to encourage you to keep being faithful to your bride and to be patient with her. Perhaps she is low on hormones and is super stressed out. Maybe you’ve explored these avenues, and maybe you haven’t. Talk to her about it (if you haven’t yet, but it sounds like you’ve at least brought it up). I understand the frailty of this interaction and how it can trigger emotions extremely easily, so again, rely on patience to get you through. Pray to the Lord that He would give you a soft heart for her. I’ll be praying for you sir.

      Ryan

      Reply
    4. David Bugher on

      Why don’t I ever see an article addressing the spouse who sees sex and intimacy as a negative. My wife doesn’t even like to hug; I’ve forgotten what a passionate kiss feels like; and we haven’t had intercourse in 15 years. During that time, she’s made clear she would like me to simply accept her the way she is. Multiple therapists continue to suggest I make changes in hopes of lighting a fire. Most recently, I agreed to a sex fast that has lasted five months. It has improved other areas of our life because (in my opinion) my wife has not felt the pressure to “perform.” I dread the next visit with the therapist. What will I be asked to do next?

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi David,

        I’m confused by what you said here, that you haven’t had intercourse in 15 years, but you’re on a 5-month sex fast? Not that it matters, I just didn’t understand those two things together.

        However, it sounds to me like all of your energy is directed toward getting what you want (sex) while your wife’s energy is directed at getting what she wants (no sex). She has asked you to accept her as she is and you’re saying no. You’re asking her for sex and she’s saying no.

        Is sex the defining point of your marriage?

        And if so, then what happens when you can’t agree?

        Just wondering,
        Kay

      • Mitch on

        It sounds like when you can’t agree the default position is that you don’t have sex since you are certainly not going to physically force yourself upon her.

        “Is sex the defining point of your marriage?”

        Obviously sex is one of the key defining points of any marriage. Sexless marriage is a major problem and if unaddressed is potentially fatal to the marriage. This is not something that can just be sloughed off and treated like it is “just the way she is.”

        If she was a genuine asexual then that would be grounds for an annulment if the marriage has not been consummated. Martin Luther believed it was grounds for divorce but most biblically conservative scholars believe that, while it is a form of marital abandonment, it is not grounds for divorce but can be grounds for separation.

    5. Tony Barger on

      As a brief reply and not knowing anything else beyond this article; 1-I’d be very open (sincere, non-argumentative) with her about how you’re feeling and the associated struggles, 2-ask her, but also express what a good sex life for you and her looks like. 3-commit to purity and seek help personally thru tools to lock down equipment or an accountability partner, 4-commit to setting time aside weekly, make it like a date, keep it fun, but include intimacy, 5-seek out a therapist for both of you to work thru it together, 6-as we age, it won’t be like it used to be, discuss the changes openly and resolve them together. We may no longer “feel like it”, but sometimes “activity” precludes “desire”. Commit to the effort and desire will catch up. Praying the best for your marriage!

      Reply
    6. Sola Olayinka. on

      Sexual intimacy is the hallmark of fruitful marital union. But too many attachments are making it a mirage. This can be the partners vocation, environment and couples’ state of mind before, during and after sexual union. I submit that marriage partners must create enough time for preparation before the real sexual acts.

      Reply
    7. John Skinner on

      I agree 100% with what Hunter said, and furthermore, what the others have also said, because there’s more to a healthy marriage than the stopping of bad behavior. My pornography addiction was my own responsibility, and as it was exposed by my wife finding out, I diligently sought accountability and acceptance through a godly brother. I realized that there were a host of underlying poor assumptions about my relationship with God and with my wife that I, as a people pleaser, was afraid to ask my wife to engage sexually, and to seek oneness in EVERY way together, and not just about sex, but about the house, money, the kids, the business. After 19 years since the crisis (total 31 years married), I still work on the humility of listening, and also the courage of leading in my own life and family. I’ve actually stepped down from being an elder at my church, not because of any crisis, but because I realize I’ve given a lot of time to the church, and we’re at another transition point with changing seasons in our business and family life, and I need to step up again in the same process of achieving oneness in our marriage moving forward. I’m praying for you.

      Reply
    8. Yeah-nope on

      @RJB3369
      You are describing a situation that I, myself am working through.

      First, this has nothing to do with your inability to get her libido up. You are in a neglectful (at best) relationship. If I had to guess, she has placed her job as a mother, and the kids, above the marriage. Unfortunately, this is way too common.

      Secondly, You need to see a counselor. There are reasons why you are unwilling (and unable) to confront this issue. You need to figure these out. It will help you in more than just your marriage.

      Thirdly, marriage counseling ASAP! Your personal counseling will help with your ability to articulate the issues with your wife. Most likely her neglect is not malicious, she probably doesn’t even see what damage she is doing.

      Good luck. You are not alone!

      Reply
    9. RJB3369 on

      Nice lecture, Hunter. You have extrapolated way past any semblance of knowledge about my situation. Why don’t you try taking a few steps back and realize that your experience is not necessarily relevant here. My struggle has been with masturbation and sexual fantasy because I live in a very crowded home with no privacy whatsoever. In addition, I already have porn filters on my computers because I have kids.

      About three year ago, I was diagnosed with extremely low testosterone and had a much lower libido than when I was younger. My work productivity had fallen off and I felt listless and without the energy to work out. I needed to lose weight and my doctor prescribed an underarm testosterone medication that was unsuccessful at getting my T numbers up. So last year, he switched me to direct injections of testosterone and, voila, my numbers went way up. Along with my libido.

      So this dormant libido now wakes up. Meanwhile, my wife is not very happy because she was content to remain sexless for the duration of our marriage. She explicitly said so. Unfortunately, she had to have surgery which means sex has been off the table for months.

      So I am going crazy. I masturbate to get rid of the pressure waiting for the day she will be able to have sex and hope that I will have the nerves to ask for it even though I know she doesn’t want it.

      I have asked her to go to marriage counseling to talk about why she has always been so resistant to sex with me. Quoting 1 Corinthians 7:5, while biblically accurate, is not a good strategy for getting your wife’s libido fired up. And since I am so self-conscious about my sex drive now because it is so much higher than before, I wonder if I should just flush all the testosterone down the toilet and go back to being a eunuch and enjoy the depression and low productivity that goes along with it.

      One of the reasons I post on Covenant Eyes and other anti-porn related websites is to be an alternative to illicit browsing that may hit me. I keep a bunch of Christian blogs bookmarked precisely to go to when I feel most tempted. Fortunately, my filters get most of the really bad stuff. But there is still a lot of sexy stuff on the internet that passes through the filters so this blog helps me resist.

      But Hunter, please advise me on what I should do because you seem to have all the answers.

      Reply
    10. RJB3369 on

      @Nancy,

      Working through those wounds is what helped me to be more open to my husband.

      I am curious about what this process looks like. What does it mean to work through wounds? Is it counseling with a licensed sex therapist? Is it conversation with your husband? Sexless marriage support groups? Women’s accountability group at church (assuming they even exist)?

      Reply
    11. RJB3369 on

      @Hunter,

      Just to give you an idea of how sexually deviant I really am, I was watching a Hallmark movie with my wife after 2 months of no sex and no masturbating because I was trying to stop. But I had to leave the room because the actress Jessica Lowndes was the star of the movie. And I got so turned on by her even though all she wore were coats and Christmas sweaters that I had to walk around the block to get my mind right.

      But you’re right. I have no one to blame but myself for my sick addiction.

      Reply
    12. RJB3369 on

      there’s more to a healthy marriage than the stopping of bad behavior.

      Of course this is true. But one of things I notice is that when someone says “There’s more to marriage than x” it is code for “Marriage is about everything except x“.

      In other words, isn’t stopping bad behavior one of the aspects of a healthy marriage? 1 Corinthians 7:9 anybody?

      Could you talk with your wife and say “I really want to invest in our relationship and feel close to you… is there one or two days a week that we can plan to be sexually intimate?”

      Good advice. I told her 6 months ago that I wanted her to identify two days a week that she would commit to being available for sex. I was open to her coming back and asking that it only be one day. I was also open to her coming back and saying she would be willing to make it three days. But true to form, she rolled her eyes and said “Whatever.” She never identified any days and three weeks went by and I asked her about it and she said she didn’t want to do that.

      I would get a pastor and/or marriage therapist involved if at all possible.

      Tried that. After 3 sessions of dealing with her issues I tried to bring up the sexless marriage. “I just need more sex,” I said. Counselor says, “You don’t need more sex. Sex is a desire not a need. You’re not going to die without it.” Then he shifted back to addressing my wife’s concerns and we spent the next counseling sessions on communication and trust issues. Sex never came up again and we ran out of money for more counseling.

      She and her flesh is/are an idol to you.

      My wife said something similar only just said “I was making sex into an idol.” I guess idolatry is a problem for a lot of things in our lives, but it seems like some bit of evidence is necessary for making such an incendiary charge. Wanting sex once to twice a week when the current situation is once or twice a year hardly constitutes idolatry. If I was demanding it every day or forcing myself on her, then you and she might have a point. But I am very gentle with my approach to sex with her.

      You basically just said that the reason you have “moral problems” (which I can only assume means some form(s) or sex addiction – porn, masturbation, prostitution, etc.) is because of your wife. In other words, you just said that your sin is your wife’s fault.

      What is the saying about what happens when we assume? Moral problems involves exactly what 1 Corinthians 7:5 says:

      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.

      No, it does not involve porn addiction but lust and sexual fantasy. I am still waiting for Covenant Eyes glasses that will filter out all of the sexual stimulus the world throws at us in the non-virtual world. Then I will need Covenant Brain pills that will eradicate the fantasies.

      But I have actually found another way to reduce the internal pressure to commit lust and have sexual fantasies. It works very well and it’s actually biblical. It’s called regular sexual relations with my wife. It reduces stress and diminishes the amount of semen in my body. It’s not a 100 percent solution, but it sure does help.

      So is that “blaming my wife”? It depends. If I sin as a consequence on being deprived, I am still culpable for my sin. 1 Corinthians 7:5 does not excuse the sin of the person who is tempted by Satan. But it is also very clear that the depriving spouse is also sinning. And in a marriage, which is a one-flesh relationships, it is not altogether an automatic process separating where my sin stops and hers begins or where her sin stops and mine begins. I think everyone would agree that her sin of depriving might be rooted in sins I have committed against her. But if that is possible, so is the opposite.

      Reply
    13. Marc Regan Gardner on

      Dear RJB3369,

      I too share your pain of a near sexless marriage; and as a husband who has done the very same things, your letter could have been written by me.

      The blog and materials that you desire would be ‘MarriedandHappy” by Calle Zorro.
      Great stuff on masculinity within a Christian context. Not cheap, but nothing worthwhile is!
      You probably won’t agree with all of it; it required a paradigm shift in my thinking.
      We here in the USA have not seen real masculinity modeled, so men are lost and women are confused, and scared that real masculinity is something like Harvey Weinstein, a Bible-thumping, scripture-wielding chauvinist, or a caveman.
      I think here in American Christianity many men are afraid to put our foot down, to have a boundary and say, ‘no more.’ As if that’s somehow unloving and un-Christlike. We’re afraid that we’ll be seen one of ‘those’ abusive men, so we give, we bless, we sacrifice, without any expectations or requirements.

      Since when did no sex become acceptable in marriage? Isn’t that the very definition of Torah/Biblical marriage? At its most basic form, a sexless marriage is a contradiction, an paradox; if there’s no sex, it isn’t really a marriage, it’s a roommate living arrangement.

      I also found “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Robert Glover to be helpful with changing my ‘nice guy tendencies; I’m still ‘recovering.’

      As I’ve read your letter again, the replies, and your replies back, I see a few possibilities…
      You, as I can be, appear rather defensive – and I’ll just man up and take the hits – which is a sign of immaturity, lack of conviction and general insecurity about ourselves. Wives HATE defensiveness; they want a MAN who will take responsibility for his actions, who will own his part; ask me how I know!
      Second, your references to ‘choreplay’, etc. ring true with me, and as I am reading Calle’s materials and forum, I see that I did all those actions from the wrong (unproductive) mindset; I was giving-to-get, Classic ‘Nice Guy’ seduction, and very manipulative.
      Our wives are such a gift, they see right through that BS into our real motives. And it’s a huge turn-off to them!
      Did you and your wife ever have decent sex? Has this sex aversion existed from the beginning? If you ever have, then consider ‘cleaning your side of the street’; it’s the only one that you can do anything about anyway.
      If you are like me, you have been completely blind to how you are affecting you wife, and the feelings that you have been creating in her towards you.
      I myself am doing what I can to change my mindset to one that is mature, self-confident and okay regardless of what my wife or anyone else says or does. Where I give out of the abundance of God’s love in my heart, without expectations of reciprocity. Where if I do have expectations, I own them, speak them and talk them out. (Still working on that)
      What God says about me is what is true; will I truly believe it? and live that out?

      Your good will come, with the right mindset…

      Rorick

      Reply
    14. David J. Myers on

      @ RJB3369: I had the same reaction you did to this article, and I knew as I read it that I would have to respond. But you did it for me, and for a number of others, as you can tell from the many supportive comments. Good for you. Ignore the (few) comments from people who (1) have no idea what you’re going through and (2) are bound and determined to evade clear scripture (or, worse yet, blame you).

      My story was very similar to yours over the course of a 29-year marriage. A number of times I contemplated either divorce or suicide, but I could never punish my kids for their parents’ inadequacies (her proud frigidity and my failure to reach the point of spiritual maturity where it didn’t matter to me). Surprisingly to me, she ended up divorcing me without biblical grounds (per our marriage counselor and our pastor). Much ensuing (and continuing) pain for our children. Sin upon selfish sin. Believe it or not, as bad as things are in your situation, divorce will be worse, at least if you have kids. I pray for God to work a miracle in your wife’s heart.

      As for the article itself, I will make one comment. Dr. Slattery says, “In fact, building sexual intimacy may mean saying ‘no’ to sexual encounters that undermine relationship and trust.” Guess who decides whether any particular “sexual encounter” supposedly undermines relationship and trust? (As one of our Christian counselors told me, “She who has the p***y has the power.”) This blows a hole in the marriage vows and in 1 Cor. 7 that a selfish wife will drive a truck through, while trumpeting her virtue. “If I have sex with you, it will undermine our relationship and my trust! I’m doing our marriage a favor by depriving you! Don’t you get it!” Slattery has no clue how deceived these women are or how numerous they are, nor of how devastating their behavior is to their husbands. The whole point of her article is to chide Christian husbands who are stupid enough to expect their wives to keep the vow they made at their wedding and the marital obligation Paul reiterated in 1 Cor. 7. “Are you pursuing sexual intimacy or just sexual activity?” One thing is guaranteed: you can’t have the former if you’re not having the latter. And the (presumed) fact that a handful of men in Christ’s church may be sinfully pursuing only the latter is no basis on which to give a pass to the many women in Christ’s church who are denying the latter. They claim to want intimacy, so they sinfully withhold sex until they get intimacy to their satisfaction, which is never because it’s unachievable (by design).

      Reply
    15. David J. Myers on

      @ RJB3369: I had the same reaction you did to this article, and I knew as I read it that I would have to respond. But you did it for me, and for a number of others, as you can tell from the other comments. Good for you. Ignore the (few) comments from people who (1) have no idea what you’re going through and (2) are bound and determined to evade clear scripture (or, worse yet, blame you).

      My story was very similar to yours over the course of a 29-year marriage. A number of times I contemplated either divorce or suicide, but I could never punish my kids for their parents’ inadequacies (her proud frigidity and my failure to reach the point of spiritual maturity where it didn’t matter). Surprisingly to me, she ended up divorcing me without biblical grounds (per our marriage counselor and our pastor). Much ensuing (and continuing) pain for our children. Sin upon selfish sin. Believe it or not, as bad as things are in your situation, divorce will be worse, at least if you have kids. I pray for God to work a miracle in your wife’s heart.

      As for the article itself, I will make one comment. Dr. Slattery says, “In fact, building sexual intimacy may mean saying ‘no’ to sexual encounters that undermine relationship and trust.” This blows a hole in the marriage vows and in 1 Cor. 7 that a selfish wife will drive a truck through, while trumpeting her virtue. “If I have sex with you, it will undermine our relationship and my trust! I’m doing our marriage a favor by depriving you! Don’t you get it!” Slattery has no clue how deceived these women are or how numerous they are, nor of how devastating their behavior is to their husbands. The whole point of her article is to chide Christian husbands who are stupid enough to expect their wives to keep the vow they made at their wedding and the marital obligation Paul reiterated in 1 Cor. 7. “Are you pursuing sexual intimacy or just sexual activity?” One thing is guaranteed: you can’t have the former if you’re not having the latter. And the (presumed) fact that a handful of men in Christ’s church may be sinfully pursuing only the latter is no basis on which to give a pass to the many women in Christ’s church who are denying the latter. They claim to want intimacy, so they sinfully withhold sex until they get it intimacy to their satisfaction, which is never because it’s unachievable (by design).

      Reply
    16. Marcia on

      Nate Meyer, men often forget that women need to be wooed. You say she ignores your attempts to initiate sex. What kind of attempts are you making? Are you buying a bunch of greeting cards (with a romantic theme) and hiding them some where in the house and from time to time (maybe 3-5 times a month) pull out one of those cards and write a heart felt note inside and then leave it in a place where she is bound to see it. Small gifts are always good. A single rose, some costume jewelry, maybe a night out or stay home and watch a movie together. I think the best thing you could do is get Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages”. This book will help you figure out how best to express love to your wife and she will respond better to that.

      Also, if you are doing something to sabotage the marriage like watching porn or openly ogling other women when you wife is around, then you are crushing her self esteem and intimacy with you is the last thing she wants. So stop it! Are you sabotaging the marriage in other ways? Do you belittle her, scorn her, laugh at her or ignore her unless you want sex?

      There could be a hundred different reasons why your wife is giving you the cold shoulder. A great resource that My Husband and I found is call “The Conversation Challenge” It asks very specific questions about how each of you feels, wants or needs regarding sex. It can be very eye-opening. And if you remember what you learn about her and change some of your behavior patterns to reflect what she wrote in that tool, it can make an amazing difference in you intimacy and sex life. This resource is available for free at XXXChurch.com. Use this link and if that doesn’t work go to the website and go under “Contact Us” and ask them to send you the questionnaire. http://www.bestsexlifenow.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/The_Conversation_Challenge_Workbook.pdf

      Good luck, I was a reluctant wife for about 25 years out of our 32 year old marriage. There is a reason she is avoiding sex. And if the two of you can work together to discover and change or compensate for the issues that she might be having, there is a good chance of a great sex life just around the corner.

      Reply
    17. Ken Ryder on

      So, all of this commentary is couched in the Bible, God and Christianity. Where does that leave all of us who are agnostics, aetheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and so on and so forth. One can come away feeling (but not necessarily believing), that pornography, problems with sexual intimacy, etc. is a problem confined to Christians or, that in order to overcome addiction, one must be or become, a Christian. I say nonsense to all that. All of us on this beautiful planet are first and last humans of every stripe imaginable. I see Covenant Eyes as one way among many to overcome addiction.

      Reply
    18. Mara Dolores on

      Funny how all these replies from men still center on sex. SO all consumingly important to men!

      I have been suffering sex with no intimacy for over 35 years. Yes, the frequency has slowed down quite a lot. (That being said, he gets a LOT more than I do.)
      I do not deny my husband sex, but he has denied me intimacy, touch, communication, foreplay, kindness, empathy, orgasm, compliments, or even bothering to look at me or so much as make a sound during sex. I haven’t been kissed, aside from the dry ritual goodbye peck since 1995.
      After achieving his all-important orgasm, he rolls over and goes to sleep because HE is now satisfied, and that is what really matters, isn’t it?

      1 Cor 7:5 says do not deprive EACH OTHER. Men always fixate upon this as meaning do not deprive THEM of their orgasm. Maybe there are other things that a wife needs, too?

      My husband has deprived me of so many things, has said countless things to make me feel unattractive, unworthy, and unloved over the years, but somehow something is wrong with ME for being “frigid”.

      I have practically begged him to go to counseling over the years, but he scornfully refuses, asking “well what’s a counselor going to say, and how will this do any good?” I have tried talking to him exhausting time after time after time. He gets angry, defensive and sarcastic. He usually makes a lame formulaic apology, and makes promises that he then can’t be bothered to keep. He blames me for having no self confidence, after actively destroying it over the years. His default attitude with me is normally harsh. There is no true intimacy in our marriage, but so long as he gets his jollies, and I cook, clean, do laundry, pay bills, etc… ad infinitum, and I keep my mouth shut, he is content.

      Yet 1 Cor 7:5. I don’t have Biblical grounds for divorce. Our marriage is low-level torment and misery for me.

      I feel like such a stupid fool for believing him and loving him. Goodness, I volunteered for this, so it really is my fault!
      I cry every day (but not where he can see me, because it irritates him), and have cried during sex but he has never noticed. I have told him I am desperately lonely. Oh well.

      I am firmly convinced that he has never loved me, and I come least, lowest, and last to him. I am nothing but a useful appliance to him.
      He is a deacon in church, and will pray for anyone in church without a second’s hesitation, but doesn’t want to pray with me at home. Ironic, to say the least. Intimacy? I wish.

      I am just trying to do what is right in this. I pray for strength and help to forgive my husband, keep me from sinning with my temptation to bitterness, and to renew a right spirit within me despite the harshness of my marriage. I am trying to lean into God, devour His Word, and pray that God will use this and use me in this. Lastly, I pray that God will redeem these bleak years. I don’t know, aside from God’s intervention to get across to my husband how deeply has wounded my heart over the years.
      I so long to go Home. No suicide, but I am ready to go when He has decided it is my time. I look forward to being with my LORD, my Redeemer who loves me, and there will be no more tears, and those who mourn shall be comforted.

      To these men who say their wives just don’t want sex anymore, to you I say that there might just be another side of the story to which you are (willfully?) oblivious.

      I am not saying that I haven’t done wrong in this, I absolutely have, but I cannot fix this alone. So long as he gets more or less what he wants, apparently he is content.

      Reply

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