Is Sex Really All that Important in Marriage?

Posted on Saturday, May 4th, 2013

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wedding day close up 246x164 Is Sex Really All that Important in Marriage? photoOccasionally, I receive a comment or email from someone contending that sex really isn't all that important in a marriage.

The person usually admits that they rarely or never have sex with their spouse, yet they are "the best of friends." They thoroughly enjoy their life together.

My response?

Well, my "Cliff's Notes" version response is this:   A marriage without sex isn't really a marriage.

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about marriages that are dealing with chronic illness, injury or long-term separation (military deployment, job commitments, etc.)  Certainly there are marriages navigating challenges that make sex difficult at best and impossible at worst... yet, the marriages are incredibly strong.

Nope, I'm not talking about those marriages.

I'm talking about the rest of us who really have no valid justification for not nurturing sexual intimacy with our spouse.

Below is my extended response when someone argues that sex isn't all that important in a marriage.  Consider that...

1. God designed marriage as a covenant relationship.

Marriage was God's idea. And because of that, we would be wise to understand how and why he differentiates it from other human relationships.

When two people marry, they become one in such a way that any division of that relationship has significant spiritual implications (not to mention emotional, societal, etc.)

If we were to bring this down to bare facts, they would look like this:

1. God is the author of marriage.
2. He said sex is a necessary and enjoyable part of marriage.
3. Marriage and sex go together.

God's Word isn't just about the bare facts, though, is it?

When we dig into His Word, we find He is rich with example after example that describe what happens when sex is handled correctly. And what happens when it is not.

Read the Word.  Sex and marriage go together.  One is never intended to exist without the other.

So when someone says sex really isn't important to a marriage, I think they aren't experiencing marriage as God intended.

2. We shouldn't help another person sin.

Okay, I'm going to traipse down another spiritual aspect here.   How important is it that we not be party to helping another person sin?

The Lord is clear about the impact of our actions with regard to other people sinning...

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.   Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God..." (1 Corinthians 10:31-32)

I know where you think I'm going with this.  If a wife denies her husband sex, he is more likely to have an affair (or vice versa).

Honestly, I do think there is some truth to that, but that's not the overall point I'm trying to share.

Because even if a husband and wife who are not having sex never step out into adulterous or promiscuous behavior, they still are accommodating each other's sin.

What?

God never said sex was an optional aspect of marriage.  He commands us to do it (because He knows how soul-drenching, binding and pleasurable it is for us, but many people lose sight of those benefits).

When God tells us something is important... even going so far as to tell us to do it often... and we don't do it, what is that called?  It's called sin.

We can debate semantics and swim around in a bunch of theological jargon, yet I believe in my heart we are still going to arrive at the same conclusion -- when we disobey God, that's sin. And when we help others disobey God, we are helping them sin.

If we peel back the layers on this even further, we realize that a married couple negligent or indifferent with their sexual intimacy may also be causing other people to stumble.  If you don't value sex in your marriage, what message does that send to your kids and others around you?

"But no one knows what's happening in my bedroom, Julie."

True. They may not privy to the details, but my guess is that your children (and possibly those in your circle of influence) have at least a sense of how you feel about sex, whether it be by comments you make or attitudes you carry.

Not having sex in marriage AND simultaneously believing it's no big deal to not be having sex -- this is not the common experience, right?   So if a married couple lives this out in their lives and reflects it out to the world, is that really helping or hurting marriage overall?

Are we perfect? No.  But are we called to heed God's instructions and do all we can to move in that direction, even though we might not always get it right?  Yes.

3. We rob ourselves when we don't value sex. 

It grieves me to think of how sexually unavailable I was in my first marriage. And I now realize that I wasn't only robbing him, I was robbing myself as well.

To say that sex is no big deal in your marriage -- not worth your time and effort -- is really in a sense saying you and your spouse are not worth something astounding God wants to give you.

Why would you want to concede to that when indeed it is not true?  You and your spouse ARE worth it!

Is sex really all that important in marriage?  All things considered, I'm going to go with an unequivocal  "yes" on that question.  But if you want to try to convince me otherwise, feel free to plead your case.

Copyright 2013, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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32 Responses to
“Is Sex Really All that Important in Marriage?”

  • Paul H. Byerly says: May 4th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Julie - As much as I like a good debate, I can't argue on this one - I think you nailed it!

  • JulieSibert says: May 4th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    @Paul H Byerly... THANKS! You are kind to say so.

  • tammy says: May 4th, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Bravo! Very good article!

  • Nunia bizness (jk) says: May 4th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    I look at it this way:
    It's like a lawn and it takes two people to do the yard work. If the lawn looks in bad shape then it's probably due to lack of upkeep. A person cannot claim they love yard work if their own lawn looks like it's in horrible shape.
    I've heard someone debate me and defend their self passionately that they indeed LOVE yard work. I simply look at the proof because actions speak louder than words. Does your lawn look attractive?
    Do in-actions reveal more than the claim of being an active participant?
    Words are meaningless without action. It's as simple s that.

  • Jorge says: May 5th, 2013 at 12:06 am

    I´ve been married twelve years, and I truly believe what you said Julie.

  • Greg says: May 5th, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    And as someone said from another blog post "without sexual intimacy, you and your spouse are nothing more than roommates."

  • q. banks says: May 5th, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    very good article and very true. i've always said that the person who is not participating in sex, love, and intimacy is the cheating spouse. what they're (not) doing is just as bad as a spouse who has an affair. They vowed to love and be unto the other, etc. so i think it's disgusting and frustrating for the empty spouse. It DOES cause a person to go out and stumble (cheat) even though we're responsible for our actions, but they're the ultimate cause. I think its sinful and unfair and i think a person like this shouldnt be married. You're wasting and robbing your spouse for something they actually signed up for

  • Tom & Sharon says: May 7th, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Hi Julie
    My wife and I are regular readers of your blog. We’re both in our middle 50’s and just recently celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary together. We talked about this article where some of your readers comments are that “sex really isn’t all that important in marriage.” We came up with some thoughts of our own on why we would disagree with them and would go so far as to say this is a dangerous perspective to have. Its brief and each point could be further developed but here’s our list.

    1. Thinking your experience (that sex isn’t important) is just as valid and equal in perspective to others who believe sex IS important:

    You and your husband may for whatever reason have come to this conclusion in your marriage but this idea could be dangerous to other married couples, especially in couples where the husband or the wife desires sexual intimacy and the other thinks it’s unimportant. I wouldn’t want my idea of what I think is acceptable to be a stumbling block to other marriages who struggle in this area.

    2. Thinking your perspective (that sex isn’t important) is just as valid and on equal footing with God’s perspective on sex:

    In the beginning God created marriage and said that the two should become “one.” Jesus pointed to this verse as well and several New Testament passages speak of the intimate sexual union of husband and wife. You may have decided for whatever reason it’s not important in your marriage but scripture is quite clear it IS important.

    3. You neglect the potential dangers to your marriage and to other marriages who “watch you” when you maintain that sex isn’t all that important:

    Scripture is also abundantly clear, be careful when you neglect nurturing sexual intimacy in your marriage! Satan is clever. No marriage is immune to infidelity! None! You or your spouse may maintain this position (that sex isn’t important) for some time but be careful. It may feel that way for you now but circumstances can change over the many season’s of marriage. Satan goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour…. And beware you who think you stand lest you fall. Feelings, thoughts, emotions can change. What may seem like a good idea for you now could become a disaster waiting. Even the apostle Paul spoke of not separating yourselves sexually one from another but for a time lest Satan tempt you.

    4. Not developing the deepest most intimate relationship possible here on earth:

    There is no human relationship here on this earth that is as close and intimate and personal as a deep abiding Christ centered sexual relationship between a husband and wife. You can have a deep and intimate relationship with a father or mother, one of your children, or a close personal friend, but you will never know them as intimately as you know your spouse in a deeply, lovingly, committed Christ centered sexual intimacy relationship. You can have all kinds of warm and intimate relationships with people, but sex is the one thing you can only do with your spouse.

    5. Not embracing the mystery of the union of husband and wife with that of Christ and His church:

    Scripture speaks about the sacred union of husband and wife and compares it to that of Christ and his bride, the church. The apostle Paul spoke of this union, the two becoming “one flesh” and referenced the sexual union and calls this a profound mystery (Eph:5). We ought not to neglect or diminish what God’s word says about sexual intimacy thinking we somehow “know better than God.”

    6. Thinking that the physical pleasures of the body are lower or lesser than the spiritual:

    One of the errors of the Gnostics is they believed the pleasures of the body were to be avoided and that only the spiritual disciplines and exercises were what mattered. Yet God created us body, soul, and spirit and gave us specific details on nurturing all the aspects of our being, not just the spiritual. We ought not to think we are somehow beyond the need of a close, personal, sexual union with our God given spouse because we’ve reached some “higher plane” of existence.

    7. Not developing your marriage to the deepest and fullest level it can be:

    Sexual bonding is like no other human-bonding relationship here on this earth. There is no experience that can knit you and your spouse together like that of a deep, loving, intimate sexual union with your spouse.

    8. Thinking that sex is for the young, but as we age we really don’t need “that”:

    Yes, as we get older there are challenges to both husbands and wives. Hormonal changes, changes to libido, impotence, illness, etc but by God’s help and grace, we should never let go of “desiring the desire” for sexual intimacy. Hear what scripture says to this as well. “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth May her breasts satisfy you always and may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Proverbs 5:18

    I think we could possibly come up with a few more but I hope this causes couples to consider the unique gift that God has given married couples.

  • Lee says: May 7th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    My wife and I have been married over 20 years in a sexless marriage (ML less than 10 times per year, including years with zero intimacy). Our love languages are encouraging words and acts of service rathen than ML. We hug, hold hands and briefly kiss routinely, but no ML for most of our marriage. I believe ML or sexual intercourse should be primarily for procreation. I've seen how sex causes so many problems in so many peoples' lives. I understand others may not agree, but our marriage has lasted due to our commitments to each other. Sex is simply not discussed in our house.

  • Ann says: May 7th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    @ Julie, you've shedded more light into this one important aspect of marriage. Keep on.

  • P says: May 8th, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Sex in marriage IS important. My wife has had health problems for several months which has made it difficult at best, impossible at worst to have regular sexual relations. I love her dearly and tell her so regularly, I take care of her and assure her of her importance to me. That said I am just aching to make love with her and I feel very frustrated at our lack of sexual intimacy.

  • JulieSibert says: May 8th, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    @Lee... thanks for commenting. I don't question your love and friendship with your spouse, but I don't think your marriage reflects what God says about marriage and sex. Plus, we see ample examples in the Bible where sex is not used for procreation, yet is still a vital and necessary part of a godly marriage.

    I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

  • Larry B says: May 9th, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Yes, sex really is that important in marriage. Sadly, there are many sexless, or sex is very infrequent type marriages. Sex is not just for procreation. Does anyone really believe that it is? If so, they have not thought it through very carefully. Why are both spouses open to, able to, and desirous of sex outside of the few days each month that the wife is "fertile"?! God designed our sexuality that way so that the lovemaking would be frequent, mutually pleasurable(!) and passionate. Try it - you will like it.

    Thanks Julie for another great essay!

  • Daniel says: May 19th, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    "God never said sex was an optional aspect of marriage."

    Well then seemingly a lot of wives including mine don't care much what God has to say on this.

    As a sex starved husband I am finding fewer and fewer reasons to approach my wife in order to have deep communications on subjects important to her and to our marriage. I'm not talking about begging for sex. I'm done with that. You can only kick a dog so many times before the dog stops coming around. I'm talking about the desire a husband has to engage in deep communications with his wife, when his wife is the room mate who depends upon the husband to pay the bills, put a roof over her head, and take care of the kids.

    It seems like a lot of wives need to be 100% satisfied in every aspect of their lives, when everything is going perfectly and they don't have a care in the world, then they MIGHT permit their husbands to have sex with them. But if one thing is not perfect then that becomes the new reason they are not in the "mood" and it's up to you the husband to change your sexual nature and no longer be a man. It's always the husband who has to make the accommodation.

    I wonder what it would be like if, whenever something wasn't going right for me, I stopped working, stopped helping out around the house, stopped taking care of the kids because I wasn't "in the mood." How long would our marriage last?

    Oh well. I guess sex is indeed an optional part of marriage. My marriage and many others are living proof. It's up to me, the husband, to figure out how to no longer be a man since my manhood is an inconvenience for her and for our relationship.

    Daniel

  • D says: May 24th, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    My wife, the love of my life, has health problems which have seriously impaired our sex lives. So much so that it has happened only about once a month this year up to now.
    However, to encourage your younger readers let me say that sex is not just for the young. We are in our 70s and being retired we have freedom to choose when we make love. After a prolonged abstinence we did it today and while the details are private let me just say that we were both amazingly fulfilled this morning. I disagree totally with Lee. At our age sex is certainly just for fun and today was the best ever.

  • chad says: May 29th, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Hello i will jump right in: i love being intimate with my spouse,but i am having a hard time getting my wife to take a roll in are sex life,secondly i am trying not to be so sexually active with her i am trying to cut down on the amount of times we have sex in a week. Over all our marrige is good this is just one place in our marrage that is messed up, what should i do?

  • anonymous says: June 17th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    I don't know how I could possibly fix the problems my husband and I face in solving our difficulties in this area. I cringe at the thought of trying to solve the problem. Honestly, I don't want to have relations with anyone. I think counseling is the only answer for me, but then I am not sure that will work either. And believe me, the pressure to "make it better" is profound. I feel paralyzed. I wish it would just go away.

  • JulieSibert says: June 21st, 2013 at 7:06 am

    @anonymous... thank you for your comment. You say you don't know how you could possibly fix the problems that you and your husband face. My humble challenge back to you is what is the alternative?

    I understand you feel paralyzed, but I think you are wise to follow up on what you mentioned... counseling. Christian counseling can be powerful and transforming. I encourage you to find a professional Christian counselor who can help you understand why you don't want to have sex, as well as give you wise insight on how to change this trend in your marriage.

    It's not easy. But your marriage is worth it. You made the decision to marry. Now, what will it take for you to take even baby steps toward having a stronger and healthier marriage, including more intimacy (emotional, physical, spiritual, etc)?

  • JulieSibert says: June 21st, 2013 at 7:12 am

    @D... thank you for your encouraging comment!!

    @chad... I suggest you have a heart-to-heart talk with your wife in a humble tone, sharing with her your concerns. Possibly even write her a letter, explaining how you want to grow closer, not only physically, but emotionally as well. It sounds like your approach has been to try to restrain your desire for your wife. I guess I don't know how many times you are having sex a week (maybe you do need to be more realistic about how much sex you are having), BUT my bigger concern is that you seen to be withdrawing and struggling, rather than bringing the topic out in the open.

    Would your wife be willing for the two of you to read a Christian sex book together? There are some good ones available.

  • N says: June 24th, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Maybe there is just something wrong with me. I have almost never felt 'pleasure or a connection' during sex. I want to make him happy by giving him what he wants. Am I just to fake it the best way I can? Since I don't enjoy sex is it wrong to pretend that I do for the sake of my marriage?

  • JulieSibert says: June 24th, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    @N... I don't think there is something wrong with you. I wonder if you are experiencing orgasm, which can be a very enjoyable aspect of sex. If you are not experiencing orgasm, I encourage you and your husband to learn your body through trying different touches, positions, foreplay, etc., that you find arousing.

    I don't encourage you to fake it. For one, it's a lie. In your marriage bed. Not a good idea. It also doesn't really accomplish anything healthy... sure, he may be getting sex, but if you aren't enjoying it, over time you'll just grow to resent it. Plus, you won't really be that enthused about it, which ultimately won't be enjoyable for him.

    A better approach would be to talk to your husband and express that you want to enjoy sex more, but you are at a loss as to how to do that. There are Christian sex books... possibly you could read one together. And certainly always good to study God's Word. Give yourselves freedom to really learn each other's bodies.

    I don't know anything about your upbringing or past knowledge or experience about sex, but if there is anything in your past that was a negative experience sexually... whether it be past abuse or that you were brought up with the idea that sex was "gross" or "dirty" or "simply your duty as a wife" -- if there are any of those types of negative things rolling around in your heart or head, I encourage you to seek to embrace a healthier view on sex. (Or if you have past hurts or sexual abuse, seek healing in those areas).

    Anyway, those are just some ideas.

    Communication is key. The more you and your husband can communicate about what feels good and both take an active role in nurturing intimacy, the better it is... not just for the marriage, but for each of you too.

    Hope some of this is helpful.

    Julie

  • V says: July 6th, 2013 at 5:59 am

    My husband and I have very different views about sex. I see it as a chore and my husband see's it as almost the most important part of a marriage. I just feel that there are more important parts to marriage, I don't know maybe I'm being silly or whatever for thinking that but I can't help the way I feel. An I have OCD so sometimes that can cause me to worry to much about other things, not like I see my husband as dirty but my mind gets on other things and I can't focus. Also I can't make myself get in the "mood" if I'm not. Sometimes I just don't feel like it other times I do but I'm not going to do it unless my heart is in it I can't otherwise. An I don't think my husband should feel like any less of a man or anything, but I have always been the kind of person I will not be told I have to do something when I know I don't. Which might be a wrong way of thinking about it but its true. So overall do I feel sex is important yes and no. I don't think it's the most important part of a marriage but from a 1-5 (5 being the lowest) I see sex as a 3 or 4. Sadly I don't know how to look at it any other way.

  • Laura says: July 26th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    My question is
    Man , woman = married 14 years
    4 kids man has major sex addiction talking like porn toys and all
    Emotionally woman wants a connection with man
    She soon realizes that man has shut her out emotionally and only wants porn style sex or quickies at his convence
    Well woman has problem participating in intimacy because there is no emotional connection which leads to me having to drink to open up
    Well we are going to counseling and man has needs as well as woman has needs
    Well I have a ton of healing to get through before I can open up intamiately I am a woman that can't be intamiate unless emotional connection
    What do I do ???
    The pain is from being rejected emotionally for so long and my spouse telling me that I need to find someone that can handle me emotionally because I am to much
    Please help

  • Amy says: August 1st, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Julie:
    I don't know what I believe any more, I've written a few times in your other sites and hopefully none of the younger folks fit in my category. Mine is extreme !!!!!!!
    My story is horrible and has left my life a waste, and some of it is my problem. Married 45 years and only had sex once in my entire life, we are in our mid 60's now so I've missed out on so many things no kids and loving family. I always hoped and prayed that I could have a family. But my selflish husband said that he wasn't going to get involved with our marriage let alone kids. He thought sex was meaningless, pointless, messy, smelly, disgusting to the point of vomiting. He moved to the basement and that's where he lives, as far away from me as he can be. We never talk let alone have any feelings for each other. This story can go on forever. I just hope young people talk to each other before marriage, expectations, kids, church, family, sex(how one feels about sex) positive or maybe not. Those that are married talk to each other get help if you need it. Nothing should be hidden from each other, be intimate, have fun he or she is your best friend.

  • WH says: October 6th, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    @Amy: not that I expect a change after 45 years, but WHY ON EARTH did you accept such treatment from your husband? Why didn't you give him an ultimatum on day 2 of your marriage? You could've saved yourself 45 years of pain had you done so. A dog bites me once, his fault. A dog bites me twice, my fault.

  • WH says: October 6th, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    @V: unless you make a turnaround on your attitude about sex, you are condemning your husband to a lifetime of misery and temptation. Quite frankly, you DO have to include sex in your marriage or you're cheating your husband. If you "will not be told to do something", then there's little hope of your husband having any sex he's entitled to. How would you feel if he declared " I'm not sharing my time or paycheck with you, but you need to remain married to me"?

    If this is the way it's going to be for your husband, be kind and honest with him and tell him he's looking at a sexless future...does he still want to participate? I'd recommend the same thing to wives who find they're married to men who mislead them about having children.

  • simon wekesa situma says: October 18th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    good work

  • Alex says: November 13th, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Julie,

    You say that you were sexually unavailable during your first marriage. What did you do to change that in your second marriage? Thanks.

    Alex

  • JulieSibert says: November 14th, 2013 at 12:06 am

    @Alex… As for what I did to change, I am more intentional and I don't take sex for granted. I simply recognized the problems from my first marriage and resolved to not repeat those.

  • ag1786 says: March 15th, 2014 at 4:13 am

    I just have one question.. when you talk about your first marriage im assuming that it didn't end in a divorce... because if it did its sad to think that the sex you are having now is not at all what God wanted.. as he never approved divorce and re- marriage again.

  • JulieSibert says: March 15th, 2014 at 8:41 am

    @ag1786… My first marriage did end in divorce because my husband decided to leave and divorce me. I did not want the marriage to end, but he ended it. Not me.

    I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree on your second point… that the sex I am having now in my second marriage is not at all what God wanted. You and I must interpret the Bible differently on that one.

    Thanks for commenting though. I appreciate you stopping by the blog.

  • Kanu Ernest says: March 20th, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    This what married people needs "TRUTH" .

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