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So I'm talking one day to a woman who obviously was very indifferent to nurturing sexual intimacy with her husband. I try to convince her that maybe such intimacy does deserve some of her effort.
Trust me. I always overestimate my degree of influence in situations like these. I am such a renegade.
So, in a last ditch effort, I say, "Well, what if he wanted to have sex with someone else? Would that be okay?"
You can imagine her reaction to that. There was no way it was okay for him to have sex with someone else. In that moment, from where she was standing, I was certifiably out of my mind.
What would you say to such a question? Would you be fine if your husband wanted to have sex with someone else?
It's one thing if he wants to have an occasional beer with his buddies or go on a fishing weekend with his brother, right? No problem. But sex with the neighbor woman down the road or the hot fitness instructor at the gym or the colleague he's worked with for years, well... you draw the line, right?
That I'm even posing the question is a bit ludicrous, isn't it? Some circles want to sing the glories of "progressive" lifestyles like "open marriage" and "swinging," but the truth is that the prevailing standard most people expect within their marriage is fidelity.
Common sense is really all we need to confirm this. Ask the average everyday wife, and more often than not, we're all going to say we are not okay with our husbands having sex with someone else.
So, why is it then, that so many wives are just fine with not having sex within their own marriages... with the men they married? The two trains of thought just don't mesh.
Him desiring sex with you: No big deal. No reason to pay attention.
Him desiring sex with someone else: Very big deal. Very big reason to pay attention.
I have spoken with wives and listened as they rationalize their decision to withhold sex from their husbands, as if such a decision were no different than refusing to iron his shirts or refusing to get the kind of ketchup he likes.
"He just needs to get over it. I don't like sex. He doesn't need it. He's such an animal. Good Lord, can't he control his urges? Is that all he ever thinks about? I'm sick of it. He needs to grow up."
And so the story plays itself out. Husbands who want the one thing that they could never justify ethically getting from someone other than their wife. And wives who push such desire aside, as if they've done nothing more than deny to wash his car or deny to fold his socks. And even if they do succumb to his pleas every now and then, their motivation is mere obligation rather than a genuine hunger to be sexual with their husband.
These are tough things to shed light on, because if long-established patterns exist within a marriage of one partner denying the other partner sex, such patterns begin to seem "normal."
(More often than not, it is wives who are denying sex, but the reverse happens too... husbands who refuse to be sexually available to their wives, which is equally devastating and painful).
It should not surprise us that adultery is considered by most people to be the ultimate betrayal in a marriage. Even the Lord Himself uses the word "adulterous" to describe the behavior of His people when they have turned from Him.
Do we really think God just pulled that term out of the air? Or would wiser discernment tell us that He uses such a word so that we can understand the depth of betrayal He is describing when His people turn from Him?
Just to be clear here, I am in no way suggesting that spouses who are denied sexual intimacy from their partners would be justified in adultery. Absolutely not. And in situations where adultery has already occurred, I'm in no way saying that restoration of sexual intimacy within the marriage bed wouldn't first take an enormous amount of healing and restoration of trust outside the bed.
What I am suggesting is that in marriages where sex has just fallen by the wayside or is a source of contention between one spouse who wants it and one who couldn't care less about it, there is room for growth.
The simple fact that adultery is so incredibly painful and destructive should reveal to us that the flip side is true as well -- nurtured and savored sexual intimacy within a marriage is unbelievably bonding and powerful.
Marriage is a complex creature, I know. But when we agree to embark into such complexity, one aspect to which we are agreeing is that we won't withhold our body from our spouse. Even better is when we actually enjoy giving our body to our spouse -- and receiving their body.
God gave sex to married couples for many reasons. Some of these are pretty obvious, like the creation of children. Other reasons, though, are more subtle but equally valid -- like to protect us from temptation, to remind us of our marriage covenant, and to lessen the likelihood that the foundation of our marriage will succumb to pressures that are otherwise fairly minor.
And when both spouses truly value sex and nurture it with fearless abandon, the benefits exceed far beyond protection from temptation. The one flesh mystery is exactly that -- a mystery that begs us to never stop trying to discover its depths and its pleasures.
I hear from plenty of spouses who would never cheat on their partner, but they are dying a bit on the inside each day. They would never waver from their marital commitment, but they couldn't have fathomed such a commitment would be void of sexual oneness.
If you find yourself as the one who is denying sex, there is no better time than now to set a new course in your marriage. Do your part today to entertain the idea that sex with your spouse is worth heartfelt effort.
For more on refinding intimacy, consider this series Sarah Baron is doing over at www.Anonymous8.com (she interviewed me for one of the posts, but there are other posts in the series too, so check those out).
And I recently did a post on "How Much Time Does It Take, Anyway?", where I share how great sex really can happen in 15 minutes. Also in that post, I talk about this super 15-Minute Marriage Makeover eBook that Engaged Marriage is offering.
So, you tell me... would you be fine with your husband having sex with someone else? I'm just curious.
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert, Intimacy in Marriage Blog.