How Have You and Your Spouse Achieved Win-Win in Your Sexual Intimacy? (Part 1)
In the near future, I will be going deeper on the topic of sex in marriage for all of our Love and Respect friends. The title? Love and Respect (and Sex): Coming Together as Husband and Wife.
Interested in learning more? Would you like to add your stories to the content? Read on, and I’ll show you how.
For over forty years as a pastor-teacher and pastoral counselor, I have exposited 1 Corinthians 7:3–5 with great excitement. In that passage are nuggets of gold for husbands and wives concerning human sexuality. There we learn four beautiful truths that all married believers need to believe, prize, and follow. God calls husbands and wives to honor their:
mutual sexual needs
equal sexual responsibilities
equal sexual say
mutual sexual agreement
One, each of us in marriage must value and validate the way God designed the other with sexual desires, needs, and vulnerabilities (1 Corinthians 7:1–2).
Two, each of us must fulfill our God-given responsibility to meet the other's sexual need as a reflection of our general concern and devotion to please the other as God calls us to do each day (1 Corinthians 7:3, 33, 34).
Three, we have equal sexual authority given to us by God and have both the right to request more sexual intimacy and the right to ask less, with neither being wrong, just different (1 Corinthians 7:4).
Four, because we have equal say and equal responsibility in meeting mutual sexual needs that differ, God intends for us to find a win-win agreement (7:5).
For this reason, based on Ephesians 5:33, I teach that husbands are to love their wives so much that they seek to respect these mutual sexual needs, equal sexual responsibilities, and equal sexual say, and then find a mutual sexual agreement about sexual intimacy. The same applies to the wife. She is to respect her husband's inner heart, based on Ephesians 5:33, which means loving him so much that she too recognizes their mutual sexual needs, equal sexual responsibilities, and equal say in order to find mutual sexual agreement. When two people apply Ephesians 5:33 where husbands and wives love and respect each other, their sexual intimacy is most meaningful.
In order for the beauty of God’s design for marriage to work, the husband must focus on God's call to him personally, and not on God’s call to his wife; and the wife must focus on God’s call to her personally, and not on God’s call to her husband. For instance, God calls a husband to focus on the commandment to love his wife, which means his focus should be on centering his heart and mind on her needs, his own responsibilities, honoring her equal sexual say, and then finding win-win agreement about sexual intimacy.
As I have taught at our Love and Respect Conference for twenty years, the husband sins against Christ when he tells his wife, "You aren't respecting me. You need to do what I say and meet my sexual needs." Or, some husbands less interested in sex might shout, "Quit demanding sex, you are so contemptuous and I can't stand it. Leave me alone." Such a man is not honorable or loving. There is no wiggle room on this.
Grievously, and most commonly, over the centuries 1 Corinthians 7 has been spun to justify one-sided coercion rather than mutual consent. Some claimed that the husband had authority over his wife's body, and she must fulfill her duty to him sexually while ignoring the equal teaching on the other side: the wife has authority over her husband's body, and he must fulfill his duty to her sexually. How disheartening to realize that too often nothing was said about how a husband and wife should and can find mutual sexual agreement.
Historically, how sad to know that some taught that wives were to give themselves to their husbands sexually on demand, and the husbands' sole duty was to stay away from prostitutes. But even then, in situations when the husbands did visit prostitutes, their sinful actions still turned on the wives in that it was claimed that their deprivation drove the husbands to the arms of another woman. Thus, it was still believed that the wives were 100 percent at fault. How distressing to learn how the wives were blamed. Such teaching was sinister, sick, and sinful.
Even though 1 Corinthians 7 is clear about mutual consent, there was no discussion among these earlier teachers on how the wife could exercise her God-given authority over her husband, either by declining his sexual requests or requesting more sex with him. These wives found themselves in a precarious position. For these precious and pure wives, it was a lose-lose dilemma.
This attitude of husbands that took a one-sided position to 1 Corinthians 7 and demanded fulfillment of their male conjugal rights was contrary to Abba Father's revelation to husbands and wives. One cannot imagine the pain many wives encountered. Or, equally depressing on the other end of the spectrum were those husbands depriving their wives of sexual intimacy.
Even today, how many wives cry themselves to sleep at night as they repeatedly ask themselves, "What's wrong with me? Why does he not want me? Why does he reject me?"
The good news is that I wish to help educate and motivate couples to understand each other. I know that when we operate based on God's plan, we can come together with a win-win approach that enables both to enjoy sexual intimacy as God intended.
This series called Love and Respect (and Sex) will unpack how we can act on these four God-given truths: mutual sexual needs, equal sexual responsibilities, equal sexual say, and mutual sexual agreement. On the last point, I will share how I have helped couples find win-win remedies in meeting each other's need for sexual intimacy. It works and it is a beautiful thing. God knows about these things!
I share these things because I would love to hear stories about how you and your spouse achieved win-win in the area of sexual intimacy. I know you have applied these scriptures with wisdom. Others need to learn from you.
P.S. Why am I asking for your feedback?
Most of you have heard me teach this content, but there are critics out there who falsely claim— for the first time saying this publicly - to my knowledge—that I teach that only husbands want and need sex. That claim is a lie.
Why a lie? For one reason, it isn't biblical to say husbands want sex and wives do not want sex. I have always and only taught what the Bible has revealed. When considering sexual intimacy in marriage, 1 Corinthians 7 boldly declares an egalitarian position on sex between husband and wife. I have made this point clear for anyone who attends our conference, reads my blogs, listens to our podcasts, etc. But I can always make it clearer for anyone who wishes to ask.
My wife, Sarah, states forthrightly at our Love and Respect Marriage Conferences, "Sex begins at breakfast for wives." The whole focus is to understand how to meet a wife's need for sexual intimacy, which may be experienced differently for a wife than for a husband. That doesn’t mean a wife does not have a need for sexual intimacy! We have never said that. In Love and Respect, I echo and elaborate on Sarah’s comment. "It’s been said that sexual intimacy often begins at breakfast—or at some other time during the day. Hug her, hold her hand, tell her you love her, tell her how pretty she is. Be affectionate but not sexually aggressive. Touching her and kissing her only when you want sex is usually a turn-off to your wife. She builds up to sex much slower than you do, so through the day keep your advances in the affectionate zone only. When you set the right tone with little encounters during the day or evening, it leads much more naturally and easily to sexual intimacy later" (page 132).
Of course, a critic would say, "What about the wife who wants sex and the husband isn't meeting her need?" This squarely and clearly falls under the teaching of a husband applying (or in this case, not applying) C.O.U.P.L.E. This is the acronym I use to explain what the Bible teaches about a husband loving his wife. (Please read the book Love and Respect for the many Biblical passages to husbands that are the basis of C.O.U.P.L.E.) When a husband loves his wife by being close to her, open with her, understanding of her, peacemaking with her, loyal to her, and esteeming of her, he will hear the cry of her heart on whatever the issue.
Interestingly, C.O.U.P.L.E. is nearly half of Love and Respect. When a husband misses what we are saying about love, he has a problem, but the message I am teaching in Love and Respect is not the reason for his problem. So, for instance, any husband who deprives his wife sexually (1 Corinthians 7:5) - I say this dogmatically - is not applying C.O.U.P.L.E. For example, when he is close to his wife, he will understand her need as best as he can because he will be listening to her heart and empathizing. Or when a husband refuses to understand his wife (1 Peter 3:7), he is neither loving nor honorable. For sure, a loving and honorable husband will not neglect his wife's sexual needs any more than a wife will neglect her husband's sexual needs. When it comes to sex there is a dance of mutuality and reciprocity.
And it is this dance of mutuality and reciprocity that I am certain you and your spouse have danced together for many years that I would love to hear about, and how together you have achieved win-win when it comes to sexual intimacy.
Again I ask, would you bless me and others by sharing your stories? Please send me an email at email@example.com. Thank you in advance, and God bless.