Author Leah Holder wrote a terrific post this week for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which she entitled Why I Keep Saying “No” to Sex.
The gist of the article is this: She says “no” because she is not yet married.
Sexual purity is important to her because it is important to God, and she has therefore made a commitment to save sex for marriage, however unpopular or difficult such a decision has sometimes seemed.
The Bible is very clear in its stance regarding sex outside of marriage. (Colossians 3:5; Hebrews 13:4)
The reason we have the skyrocketing rates of STDs, abortion, divorce, and single-parent families we see today is because far too many people have ignored God’s guidelines in the area of sex for far too long.
But there is a flip-side to the coin: The Bible also speaks clearly about what our attitude toward sex should be once we’ve walked down the aisle. (1 Corinthians 7:2-5) Sex between husband and wife, says God, is a good thing. (Genesis 2:24-25; Genesis 1:28, 31)
Sex within the context of marriage is part of His perfect design. That is why I keep saying “yes” to sex within the context of mine:
Sex is Protective
I’ll be honest. I didn’t fully appreciate how vitally important sex would be to my husband (and to my marriage), until after I’d married him. Like the vast majority of men, my husband likes to have sex. Often. After my early attempts to lower his expectations concerning frequency failed to convince him, I did what I should have done from the start: I changed my priorities to match his.
Sure, I could have stubbornly insisted he wait for the weekend. He married me for better or worse, and — being a man of integrity — I believe he would have honored his vows regardless. But much of the joy and happiness and satisfaction and delight that comes from fully embracing God’s purpose for passion in marriage would have been forfeited had I done so.
And it would also have made it far more difficult to resist the many, many, many temptations that daily present themselves in this sexually-charged culture, if he didn’t have a wife at home who is ready and willing to take care of his needs. To deny your husband physically is to leave him vulnerable and unprotected. (1 Corinthians 7:5) It is foolishly shortsighted. Why would any thinking woman do it?
Sex Promotes Good Health
There is not a vitamin, supplement, or herb on the market that benefits our bodies as much as monogamous sex in a loving relationship: It boosts energy and immunity; increases longevity; decreases the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease; alleviates stress, anxiety, and depression; strengthens and tones muscles; improves mental and emotional health; promotes deeper, more satisfying sleep; and fosters a more youthful looking appearance… just to name a few.
Want to know more? The first 11 chapters of my book, Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself, discuss in detail the studies that support these and myriad other blessings that come from prioritizing sex in marriage.
Sex is Pleasurable
My husband took me out for a hibachi dinner date a couple of nights ago, and the other people at our table complimented our deft use of chopsticks. Where did you learn to do that? they wanted to know.
The answer? We first visited a hibachi grill on our honeymoon, and my husband thought it would be fun to eat the entire meal with chopsticks, so we did (albeit very awkwardly). With every bite, more food fell back to our plate than made it to our mouth. But after 27 years of practicing every time we go out for Asian food of any sort, we’ve steadily improved so that now we’re both very comfortable and adept at eating with chopsticks.
You may not realize it, but a similar thing happens with sex. Sex may be novel and new on your honeymoon, but it just gets better and better with practice, so don’t give up or quit too soon. I can testify that after 27 years, sharing physical intimacy with my husband is more pleasurable than I ever imagined possible when we were first getting started. What was fun but fumbling and awkward in the beginning, is still fun but has become more natural and easy over time.
Sex is Procreative
I love babies, and sex makes babies, so that’s just one more reason to love sex! While it is true that God intended sex for marital oneness, that’s only half the story. He also intended it for fruitfulness. And one of the advantages to embracing this aspect of sex is that it makes for greater spontaneity — no pills to pop or scrambling around in the heat of the moment for a misplaced diaphragm.
Of course, being open to children does not automatically guarantee you a Duggar-sized family — we’ve known lots of couples who would’ve loved to have lots of children, but were only blessed with one or two despite never doing anything to prevent pregnancy. Still, there remains an obvious link between having sex and having babies, and the more comfortable you are with that fact, the easier it will be to fully enjoy the physical part of your marriage relationship.
Sex is Part of God’s Plan
God made sex. He made it for a purpose, and He made it good. Even if your marriage isn’t what it should be — or if sex with your husband isn’t what you thought it would be — you can still choose to live in cooperation and obedience to God’s original purpose and plan for sex in marriage.
If your husband shows interest when you’re not in the mood, accept his advances anyway. Willingness often precedes desire for many wives, and responding positively and sincerely to your husband’s romantic overtures will put you in the mood in a hurry.
If you are interested when your husband is not, initiate sex yourself. Admire him, flirt with him, and encourage him every chance you get, praying that God transform this aspect of your relationship into everything it was meant to be.
In our society today, I know a lot of women say yes, yes, yes to sex before marriage, and a lot of wives say no, no, no to sex afterwards. This is completely backwards. In the end, such practices lead only to heartache, frustration, disease, and constant emotional turmoil. This was never God’s plan for sex.
If you are single, do everything you can to protect this vulnerable side of yourself and save it for marriage, then share it with one person, completely and consistently, for the rest of your life.
If you are married, don’t treat sex like some rare, exotic spice to be sprinkled sparingly on special occasions. Realize, instead, that sex was meant to be a staple for married couples — more akin to bread and water or meat and potatoes — and should be enjoyed regularly in liberal amounts. Doing so will strengthen, support, and sustain your marriage like nothing else.
UPDATE: By reader request, I’ve created a printable PDF version of this article. Those who are interested may download it here.
I actually find some of this advice alarming. I’m glad i wasn’t subject to this when I was a young married woman. My husband and I have forged our own path in our marriage (and that includes sex). My needs have been considered as have his. Communication is what is needed, talk to each other. My appetite for sex (when we were younger) was never as strong as his was, even at it’s strongest. Just doing it won’t work for everyone. We scheduled sex for a long time in the early days, it worked well for us. Now we are older and I want sex more than he does, we are back to scheduling again. It still works well for us. My only advice to young newlyweds is to talk to each other, find out what works for BOTH of you, don’t think you have to take the advice from marriage blogs. You don’t!
Jennifer Flanders says
I agree with you, Gina, on the importance of good communication, finding a mutually satisfactory schedule, and not feeling obligated to take advice from random bloggers (or random commenters on those blogs).
The point of my post was not to dictate hard and fast rules for others to follow, but rather to explain why prioritizing physical intimacy in the context of marriage makes good sense to me — hence, “Why I keep saying yes to sex” — in much the same way that you’ve now explained why following a different path makes sense to you.
My reasons will likely resonate with some readers while (apparently) alarming others. Yours may do the same. The wonderful thing is that each of us not only gets to decide how we will handle this extremely important facet of marriage, but we also get to live with the consequences of that decision.
I’m glad to hear the choice you made is still working for you. I can assure you that my husband and I both remain delighted with my choice, as well. And the consequences have been far richer than I ever would’ve imagined possible when I first began making it my habit to consistently say yes to sex. So… zero regrets in that department! 🙂
Yes, it is fine. We have no regrets about how we have enjoyed our sex life. As I said in my previous comment, trying to adjust my level of desire to match his all the time would not have worked, I know this, because I know myself and what I have in me, and I know that this was the right ‘tack’ as you call it to take (although that sounds like I had some sort of selfish agenda, I didn’t and never have) I have always received my husband with enthusiasm and have never treated sex as a chore. This is because my pace and need was very much acknowledged by my husband as his was by me. I’m glad you could recognize that what we do actually works for us.
Jennifer Flanders says
I’m not aware of any negative connotations associated with the word tack. It was originally a nautical term, but eventually came to mean “a method of dealing with a situation or problem; a course of action or policy.” For many couples, differing sex drives is a problem that can cause a lot of misunderstanding and resentment. I’m glad you and your husband found a method of dealing with that situation that was mutually agreeable. That is what I was referencing when I used that term. It was a valid course of action, and — even more importantly — it worked. ?
In the early days of our marriage, my husbanfs drive was a lot higher than mine. I could not under any circumstances ramp up my sex drive to match his. There was nothing wrong with my libido, it just wasn’t as high as his. Trying to keep up with him would have ruined sex for both of us. I would have felt that l wasn’t enough for him no matter what I did. He is a kind, loving husband and he knew this and so we compromised. My needs were as important as his, my libido was as ‘normal’ as his. I had slightly more sex than I wanted and he had slightly less. It worked for us. What worked for you wouldn’t work for everyone. It’s all relative though amd depends on just how much sex the higher drive spouse is expecting. I’m not sure you will understand what I am saying though, I get the impression that ‘his need for sex overrides her need for everything else’ (quoted from Sheila Gregoire’s blog) would be your answer.
Jennifer Flanders says
It seems to me you are making a lot of assumptions, Suzanne. First, you assume that trying to keep up with your husband’s high sex drive would’ve ruined sex for both of you. Maybe it would have. Maybe not. If by “keeping up with him” you mean “begrudgingly cooperating with his sexual advances,” you may be right. That likely would’ve been an exercise in frustration for both of you.
But if instead you did what I am advocating in this post by willingly and cheefully adapting yourself to your husband in this area, who can say where that mental shift might have taken you? The fact is, you will never know for sure, because you chose a different tack. Which is fine. Every married couple must decide for themselves what frequency they’re willing to live with. I’m glad you and your husband reached a compromise that was agreeable to both of you.
Second, you assume you know how I will respond to your comment before I even have a chance to read it. I do NOT for a moment believe “a husband’s need for sex overrides a wife’s need for everything else.” That is a silly and shortsighted generalization. I can think of a lot of circumstances in which a husband’s desire for sex would need to take a backseat to more pressing concerns.
However, in the absence of such extenuating circumstances, I stand by my earlier advice and encourage women to enthusiastically say “yes” to their husband’s desire for sex at every opportunity. Doing so will lead to physical, mental, emotional, social, and economic benefits that are as surprising as they are varied. (For full details, please read my book Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself.)
In the answet to a comment above, you compare feeding a hungry baby to satisfying your husbands sex needs. I know you are thinking this way to emphasize the contrast between fulfilling the needs of others before your own. But using keeping a baby alive to keeping your husband sexually satisfied is a terrible example.
Jennifer Flanders says
I agree that the breastfeeding example falls short, but not for the reason you cite. If necessary, another person could get up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. Mom could pump milk or provide formula for somebody else to fulfill that duty. So the responsibility for baby’s nourishment need not rest entirely upon her shoulders. Not so when it comes to having sex with your husband. If you refuse, he’s out of luck. There is no righteous alternative available to him if his wife is unwilling to address that need.
Sex is pleasurable? But what about when it isn’t? This post is over generalized and doesn’t speak to all women. You are blessed to be in such a good marriage. Sex doesn’t come easy for some like it does for you. You need to be mindful of this. How about some advice for women who are really trying but feel defeated?
Jennifer Flanders says
You are right, Tanya: I am definitely blessed. And you may also be right about my over generalizing. However, I would caution any wife against making a unilateral decision to forgo sex simply because she does not find it pleasurable. With lots of practice and a patient husband, the pleasure she derives from sex will likely increase exponentially over time.
Some women don’t enjoy sex. Some husbands don’t take the time to discover what she likes. Some men are not patient, even Christian ones. For some women, sex is just mentally and emotionally exhausting. It can defeat some women. I wish you would try to understamd this.
Jennifer Flanders says
I understand all those things, Amy. I’ve known men who think holding down a job is mentally and emotionally exhausting, but I still believe it is still in their best interest to work. They are better off earning a living than in using their distaste for work as an excuse to hang out in their parents’ basement playing video games all day everyday.
Likewise, I’m still convinced it is in a wife’s own best interest for her to keep trying, whether she enjoys sex or not. Not in a resentful, begrudging way, but as an act of obedience to God (1 Corinthians 7:3-5) and a sacrifice of praise to Him.
In the context of marriage, your sex life provides a perfect opportunity for you to “in humility consider others more important than yourself” and “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) So don’t give up. Keep trying and you may one day be surprised to find yourself enjoying sex with your husband more than you ever imagined possible.
Too simplistic. Not all women would be able to change their priorities as you did. Don’t you need to sleep sometimes? What about exhaustion? There must have been times over the years with the number of children that you have that you were just bone tired and sleep was what should have taken priority. Were there times like this? If so, did he recognize that need and did he meet it?
Jennifer Flanders says
After 34 wonderful years of marriage, my husband is an expert at recognizing my needs and doing everything he can to meet them. He is truly the most considerate man I have ever known.
Of course, there have been times when I’ve felt bone-tired and in desperate need for sleep. But those feelings of exhaustion have never prevented my nursing a hungry baby as needed. Feeding a baby normally doesn’t take very long, and I am able to sleep much more soundly knowing my baby’s needs are taken care of than if I ignored them to attend to my own need for rest first.
In a similar way, sex is something my husband and I both need and desire, and I’ve never once regretted making it a priority in our marriage. I have reaped so many physical, emotional, and health benefits from doing so — including deeper, more restful sleep afterwards and increased energy during wakeful hours — that I cannot imagine living any other way. That may sound simplistic, but once you’ve make the mental shift, it really isn’t difficult to just follow through with the commitment.
By the way, my book Love Your Husband/Love Yourself devotes eleven full chapters to covering the benefits that result from prioritizing sex in marriage. It’s a fascinating read, full of scientific studies and scriptural principles that both point to the same conclusions: that sex, as God created it, is very good.
So when does your husband change his priorities to match yours?
Jennifer Flanders says
That’s the beauty of aligning my priorities with his, Emily. Now they match, and if my husband altered his at this point, they wouldn’t. The way you phrased that question makes me think perhaps you misunderstood my point. Sex is not something my husband demands of me. It is something I willingly give. And when I say I changed my priorities, I do not mean that I merely changed my actions. Rather, I changed how I thought about those actions. I recognized that my husband was 100% right in believing that sex is very important in marriage, so I adopted his belief as my own and began to live in accordance to that conviction. I began (and have faithfully continued) to prioritize sex with my spouse. And do you know what? Not only has our marriage been incredibly blessed as a result, but I personally have benefited in far more ways than I can count. Willingness may have initially preceded desire, but I can assure you the desire definitely kicked in soon after committing to that course of action and continues to persist even after 30+ years of marriage.
Emily @ www.Havemorebabies.com says
Thank you so much for writing this! Your courage to say this kind of stuff really blesses me! I love your content, and your books. So refreshing. The only reasons I can biblically come up with for not having sex after you’re married are because you are menstration, some sort of sickness that prevents it, or you are fasting and praying.
What you have shared with me is so true. At times I want to give up on working on intimacy in my marriage. I just feel I am the one not interested anymore. I love my hubby and all. At times when am not so up to having sex… I feel like a failure. Let me follow the counsel from your writing and see. Blessings
I was quite horrified by this.Point one: you decide yourself available for sex whenever it’s required by your husband, even though you clearly state you often didn’t want it, because it “protects” your marriage from his incapacity to manage his own frustration arising from the temptation of a sexually charged society? Oh. Ok…Household emotional and physical prostitution- but it’s ok because you’ve done what you should have done in the first place- accepted his level of desire and expectation as your own..and it has payoffs, like babies and he is nice to you..okay. I have no words. I’ve seen your response style and I can imagine what you’ll say. Just can’t believe I read this and you think you’re walking with God.
Jennifer Flanders says
I didn’t just accept my husband’s level of desire, I adopted it as my own. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and has led to payoffs far beyond babies and friendly companionship. You may view that as prostitution, but I view it as richly satisfying. Don’t knock it till you try it. 🙂
We need to stop putting too much emphasis on sex. No demands on a husband who is on multiple back medications and cannot perform. My sister goes thru this everyday. It’s not always the wife saying no. So sex is not everything in the marriage. Communication and mutual respect is very important.
Glad to see at least one person with a brain. As expressed in other articles by this woman and her husband, the lifestyle they promote is incredibly dangerous, and in the end, the wife will always lose. It’s very telling when most articles addressed to husbands are a bunch of do’s to make him look like some kind of smooth hunky superstar, while lists for the wives are mainly don’t’s that make it seem like we should treat our husbands more like our fathers that might beat us or abandon us if we don’t fall in line.
Jennifer Flanders says
Just to make it perfectly clear, I honor my husband for the same reason I honored my father — because I love, admire, and respect him deeply and because Scripture commands me to do so, not because I’m afraid he will beat me or leave me if I don’t. My father never did that, and there is no danger of husband doing it either. You can insist all you want that I’ve somehow lost out, but that hasn’t been my perception at all. Rather, I feel incredibly blessed — almost as if I hit the jackpot when I met my husband (thirty years ago this month) and agreed to marry him.
Erika Molina says
Thanks for writing! Young christian women need to hear more truth like this from other brave women in order to know why to say no and why to say yes 😉
Keep up the good work!
(From a single and virgin woman).
J. Parker (@HotHolyHumorous) says
Wonderful! Thanks for this post.
Glen Donotlose Bradford says
I think you’re crazy, but I don’t disagree with the overall perspective that you’re trying to support.
This is a very timely message. Older women need to keep reminding younger women of this truth, and we need to keep encouraging one another toward Biblical values in marriage! I know of 2 women right now who refuse to have sex with their husbands anymore — both Christian couples. This is yet another way that Satan is attacking marriage and the family.
Julie V says
I completely agree. And like my doctor (female) told me – the more you do it the more you will want to do.
Great post. I wish more spouses would comprehend this truth.
Reblogged this on isaiah54project and commented:
This is a great post on sex and why it is important to a marriage.
This is a great post, Jennifer. Such an important topic that we get little chance to read. You always put a healthy, positive, Godly slant on the issue of sex in marriage. Thanks.
Awesome post! We’re working back towards “normal” after a rough pregnancy (mentally and physically tiring), health issues for hubs and a 9 month old in our room. Sleep seems to take a higher priority than sex sometimes, but we’re working on it! We both know that we are much happier and healthier in mind and marriage when there are no limits on sex. Thanks for the reminder!
This is a good message for many wives to hear. I often think we live in a backwards world, because sex before marriage is heavily promoted, while sex after marriage is almost presented as unfashionable. In truth, sex within marriage, especially long term marriage, has a way of just getting better and better, until you actually start to feel bad for people that seem to believe that sex is something shallow, two dimensional, without spiritual meaning.
LOVE this! I am single so saving sex for marriage; however I love the emphasis on making sure to keep sex as a vital part of a healthy, God centered marriage! Thank you for this post.
Stacey Beckham says
This is written by Dale and Wendy’s friends from Tyler !
Sent from my iPad