Is Marriage More Than Sex?

It’s a rhetorical question.  Don’t answer.

Because we all know the answer.  Yes, marriage is more than sex.

But it also is sex.

We could get really literal here and break it all down to some overwhelmingly obvious parameters.

God’s plan is that people not have sex until they are married, right?  That’s the general consensus within most Christian theologies.

And generally speaking, Christian parents advise their children (or indirectly express to their children) that they should wait until they are married to have sex.

Not married = No sex.

This point isn’t too hard to get, is it?  I mean, it’s pretty engrained in the Christian psyche.

So doesn’t it stand to reason that the other half of the equation is equally true?

Married = Sex.

The irony, though, is that many of the people who would herald from the mountaintops the virtues of virginity until marriage, are the exact same people who treat sex within their own marriage as an optional activity.

Some wouldn’t even classify it as an activity.

They’d call it an optional duty, like cleaning the cupboards or hosting Thanksgiving for the in-laws.  They just aren’t going to do it — and even if they do, it’s rare and under a sense of guilt or obligation. And they certainly are going to let it be known they don’t like it.

Yes, marriage is more than sex. So much more in fact.

Marriage is the place where we learn what it means to do life together in every sense of the phrase.  We wrestle about finances, parenting, careers, schedules and spiritual walks.

If we took our vows seriously, we learn deeply what it means to triumph in those areas… and what it means to keep getting up when we fail.

We learn to extend grace, to be friendly, to enjoy each other’s company.

We learn how to fight.  And how to forgive. And how to make up.

We understand at a primal level what it means to be disappointed. And what it means to feel safe.

So to say “marriage is more than sex” shouldn’t come as a shocker, at least to those of us who are married.

But a marriage without sex?

That’s not a marriage.  At least not how God clearly describes in His word.  And since sex was His idea… His GIFT for married people… I think we should probably err on taking Him at His Word.

And just in case you’re wondering, I know that there are marriages where actual intercourse or sexual interaction can’t happen because of illness or injury — and yet the couples lovingly manage to nurture a strong and healthy marriage. They probably understand better than anyone what it means to make love when you can’t actually make love.

I’m not talking about exceptions here.  I’m talking about the vast majority of marriages out there.

When we stand before God and take marriage vows, we are embracing a covenant relationship.  We are saying yes… this is the person with whom I will become one.

Sadly, the “one flesh” aspect is overly romanticized in our culture, if you ask me.

I think so many engaged folk, particularly women, like the concept of one flesh… the “butterflies-in-my-stomach-can’t-believe-he-just-proposed” feeling of one flesh.

But to actually live it out?

Literally and figuratively?

Hmmm. For many people, it loses all its appeal when it doesn’t feel like the latest romantic chick flick.

Or when they realize that marriage is hard.  And sometimes boring.  And takes a tremendous amount of sacrificial effort. And maturity.

BUT… and here’s the kicker to it all…

when a husband and a wife find their bearings…

keep their hearts focused on the decision they made…

and choose to walk and communicate with an attitude of gracious love…

they discover a marriage overflowing with possibility and abundance.

And if they listen closely to God’s heart, they discover that sex is a crucial thread that holds everything together.

It’s the one thing that we can’t legitimately go get elsewhere.

God saw it as something so sacred… so necessary… and so exclusive… that He specifically tells a husband and wife to partake of it ONLY with each other.  And to partake of it OFTEN.  And to ENJOY it.

Is marriage more than sex?

Sure.

But it also is sex.

What so many see as a curse within marriage is actually a blessing.  A rich, rich blessing. Meant for our good.

What a generous Lord we follow.

Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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23 thoughts on “Is Marriage More Than Sex?

  1. Jason@SongSix3 says:

    Julie… I understand you’re quite the baseball fan. You just hit a homerun with this one!

    Next month my hunny and I celebrate 25 years of doing this marriage thing together, and I’m not sure I could have said it any better than you just did.

    Thank you for what you do here!

    ~Jason

  2. JulieSibert says:

    Thanks Jason! I appreciate all you and your Beloved are doing to speak boldly for marriage… My hope is to get better about drawing more attention to your blogs and others…

    I just seem to run out of day before I run out of things I want to do!

    Blessings friend! Keep fighting the good fight! And many more years of love for the two of you!

  3. My wife & I says:

    You are amazing, great, terrific, fantastic Julie Sibert. Well said great post. we love u

  4. Greg says:

    “The irony, though, is that many of the people who would herald from the mountaintops the virtues of virginity until marriage, are the exact same people who treat sex within their own marriage as an optional activity.”

    Julie, so very well said! I wish this message would ring from every church pulpit, every marital counseling session, and followed up with this:

    “And if they listen closely to God’s heart, they discover that sex is a crucial thread that holds everything together … It’s the one thing that we can’t legitimately go get elsewhere.”

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  6. Jeremy H. says:

    Julie, I agree with you about the fact that marriage is more than sex, but sex is part of it that cannot and should not be removed from it.

    I have read good part of your blog in the last few weeks, and I can see that my voice and my experience are not isolated.

    Someday I wish that if wives could recycle some of the excitement over the whole wedding preparation thing and re-use it in other departments, that could solve at least some of the issues I read about. Yes, I am hardly alone in my experience, apparently.

    Sex has become a rare event in our marriage and my wife acts like she could be just as happy without it. Oh, we tried, we spoke about it, I wrote letters, read excellent books on marriage, acted upon them, changed my behavior, went to support groups,, the whole entire enchiladas. With little results to show for. We talk about it, sometime we have sex, and it’s good sex. The chemistry, when it happens, is good. Trouble is, once every 6 weeks is not my idea of marriage sex.

    Just recently, I wrote her a long letter, opened my heart, explained my reasons, and, sincerely, begged her to .. let me know something. I was not begging for sex. Or may be that’s how she took it..

    Her reply was that she is glad that I am working on my issues, and that my spiritual life is back on the upswing.. What she really wants, first and foremost, is spiritual intimacy. Then, she says, that will certainly rekindle her desire, and after that we may work on our sex life. Well, that is all fine and dandy for me. I got no problems about it, if it wasn’t for the fact that until she decides and feels that spiritual intimacy is reached, I may as well sleep on the roof, ’cause nothing is going to happen in the bedroom. She has her Bible, bible study group, home-works, conferences, and that’s it. At night, in bed, is her games on her iphone, then it’s night time. And I retreat in my corner of the bed, feeling cold, alone, and sincerely, deeply depressed. I feel like I cannot wait for her decision that “the time is right”.. Then, there is the co-worker that stops more often than usual at my cubicle, and has asked me to go and have lunch with her..
    Julie, I will not go for an hamburger when I have filet mignon at home.
    However I confess that I have entertained the possibility, in my mind. Wives should know what kind of hell situations like this are for some husbands. I am working hard not to go the pornography route, and keep telling the young girl from the IT department that I will not go out to lunch with her.
    I love my wife, love her deeply, it is the wait that is killing me. And it is slowly chipping away at my desire for her, if that makes sense. If she does not feel the need for oneness and physical intimacy, then why should I ? It’s not only sex that i want. It’s feeling desired, wanted, felling that I matter in the way that only she can understand and fulfill. A quicky with a coworker, besides cheating, is only a physical release, and i can do those on my own, thank you. What I need ( and many husbands do too ) is the desire to be WITH her, close in the way only we can be. Sorry for the rumbling..thanks for the blog.

  7. JulieSibert says:

    Never apologize for rambling Jeremy. I’m saddened by your experience in your marriage. My prayer is that your wife is grieved by her sin and willing at some point (sooner than later) to set a course for a healthier pattern in the marriage.

  8. Paul H. Byerly says:

    Julie – I wrote a tweet today that sounds like a headline for this post – then I come read the post. GMTA or something.

    Well done, thanks. I pray it will open some eyes … and hearts.

  9. landschooner says:

    Jeremy,

    Her desire for you will rekindle when you guys reach spiritual intimacy? I’m not saying she doesn’t believe that, but that’s baloney. (b-o-l-o-g-n-a) Not that it will help your case with her necessarily, but she DOESN’T have the right to withhold from you. From a biblical standpoint, it INST up to her to decide whether or not you guys have a sex life. God already decided that. SHE already GAVE that at the wedding. It ISN’T hers to refrain from now.

    Her bible studies and church attendance and the excuse of “Spiritual intimacy” just spotlights her hypocrisy. She in SIN by denying her husband.

    You know, we are ALL fallen. It just really bothers me when I hear spouses use “spiritual pursuits” to justify mistreating each and neglecting one another.

    “I can ignore my marriage and my responsibilities to you because you aren’t the man I think you should be.”

    That’s the definition of hypocrisy right there.

    Who made HER the gatekeeper in your bedroom? God surely didn’t. She seems to have given herself that authority, and she doesn’t have the right.

    Something I’ve posted in a thread about “Jumping Through Hoops” on TMB.

    “It is GOOD for a man to study and pursue his wife. Its baloney that he has to PAY for it for years if he doesn’t figure it out how to push her “buttons” quickly enough. The wife needs to LOVE her husband and be INTENTIONALLY “catch-able.”

    Even the most inept brand new clueless-about-women christian newlywed husband DESERVES to have a sex life. That’s what marriage is for. She DESERVES to be loved and understood. He doesn’t have the right to withhold his love and be understanding if she fails to meet his feminine ideal either.”

    Brother, I’m sorry for what you are going through. I’m not saying how you should approach this. I’m just saying that her stance is baloney and needs to be addressed IN LOVE, but needs to be addressed.

    You know, life is very short. Your sex life in your marriage is for NOW. It isnt for 35 years from now. It insn’t for 45 years from now. Its for you and your wife for NOW. Yes, we are to work to improve ourselves and become more Christlike. We are to plan for the future. But you and she don’t know if you’ll be alive NEXT week. she doesn’t GET to wait 5 years to “maybe” see if you are “up to snuff” spiritually so that “perhaps” she might get the “hots” for you THEN………….she’ll just have another excuse anyway right? Or you’ll NEVER get there right? When will you EVER be spiritual enough? EVER?

    Its a dodge. Its subterfuge. Its a lie she believes.
    Look, I don’t know you guys, but I’ve heard it too many times on marriage boards. I’ve lived it (17-18 years of being pushed away. Not for not being spiritually intimate, but there was always something more important to do. I pushed the issue finally for about two years. Its much better now. Not great, but a LOT better)

    Brother, I’m not saying your wife is a horrible person. I’m just calling foul to her position.

    Blessings to you bro.

    LS

  10. landschooner says:

    By the way Julie, thank you for this post. I always get frustrated when I hear people talk about sex as a “result” of a good marriage. Or that its the ICING on the cake of a good marriage.

    I disagree. Sex IS the marriage. Its not ALL of it. Of course not. But in as much as my personal relationship with my wife IS our marriage, our sexual relationship is also the marriage. LOVE is. As Commitment is.

    But as you mentioned also, where love, and friendship and commitment can be had outside of marriage, biblically, only sex is exclusively in the bailiwick of marriage. Its NOT superficial; Its Integral.

  11. Eric V says:

    I really appreciate your blog, Julie.
    I wonder if we, as Christians, every truly deserved our anti-sex reputation that we appear to have in the mainstream media.

    Anyway, on to Jeremy. Your letter makes me really sad.
    It pains me to think (and obviously you much more) that your wife either doesn’t desire you or is suspending her desire for you until you measure up spiritually. Sex is supposed to be an expression of love, not a reward for good behaviour. In fact, expressing love in such a
    way can lead to better and better behaviour. It makes me wonder if she thinks she doesn’t need you in her life.

    At one time, I also knew the pain of seeming not be be desired by my wife while other women around me expressed interest. We worked through that.

    How is your relationship on other fronts? Are you a priority for her in her life? Do either of you do any of the little things to serve each other and let each other know you cherish them? Almost every workday, I get up and leave the house before anyone else is up. When I
    leave the bedroom, I lean over my sleeping or semi-sleeping wife and give her a gentle kiss and whisper “I love you”. I do a lot of tidying up in the house. We have 4 children, one with autism so our house can be quite chaotic.
    Also, each day, we read a couple of comic strips that we both really like. I read a bunch on-line every day but I save 2 of them for when we can both look at them. I sometimes add other ones that
    I know she’ll really like and I’m usually right.

    Is your wife otherwise affectionate? Do you hold hands, cuddle, hug etc. Let’s not get into the annoying ‘non-sexual’ touch thing here.
    Do you do things together? Do you spend time together?

    I had a great deal of growing up to do and had to work hard to get of poor attitudes. She had attitudes to get rid of as well and we both had to really improve our communication with each other. Couples counselling really helped.

    Sorry if this long. Sorry if this brings up lots of questions. I also hope I didn’t come off as judging.

    I’ll pray for you.

    Eric V

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  13. Doris says:

    To Jeremy,

    “Spiritual intimacy?” Between a wife and her husband this comes second after “carnal intimacy.” Otherwise something must be terribly wrong with one of the spouses.

    She keeps herself occupied precisely to avoid “spiritual intimacy” with you. Do you know how I understand spiritual intimacy? By cuddling myself on my hubby’s chest. I only need to do that and off goes his laptop so he can embrace me and… so on. This is how a wife seeks spiritual intimacy with her husband.

    Landschooner pointed out, in his comment, about what’s going on in your marriage, according to what we can read here. So no need to rerun on similar considerations. Here’s a maker or breaker — take care and think it over thoroughly, because it may change your status, for better or for worse, but at least it will get you out of “sleeping on the roof.”

    There’s an old principle saying “Audiatur et altera pars” (it should be heard also the other party). Please open your heart even more to her (you wrote that you did, so you can go further on this path) and show her this blog (or any others where you expressed your thoughts) and have her comment back. Hey! This is serious here, because we’re accusing your lady of committing a sin in marriage! So let’s hear her version.

    Don’t be afraid of quarrels, they heal (a way or another) because they are MOMENTS OF TRUTH. And I’m afraid that you dearly need a moment of truth from her part!

    Could be that she suffered some trauma and never shared her feelings with you. It may be that she is scared to death not to get pregnant — maybe some “aunt” crept this fear in her soul. Could be that she’s on the pill and synthetic hormones affect her moods. Could be another unaddressed dreaded memory haunting her. What it should be is finding a way for her to speak it out and to let it go.

    Turns out that you alone didn’t move the stumbling stone. So take the case to the forum. Sure, you may do this in real life, but she might interpret it totally wrong, like sort of vengeance from your part, like you wanting to destroy her public image, etc.

    This is why online forums, and blessed blogs like Julie’s, are made for. Borrow a nickname for her and let her loose on the web. If she likes so much playing silly games on the iphone, why not discharging on blogs about HER REAL PROBLEMS. Because, sorry to say, if you won’t find a solution to this TOGETHER THE TWO OF YOU, then it’s only a matter of time until your cowroker will handle your hormones. That may be a point of no return.

    Fight for your marriage, it’s worth saving!

    All love and our prayers for you,
    Doris

  14. Jeremy says:

    I have barely the time to write a short note, since these last few days have been very busy. I do not want anyone to think that I vanished in thin air. I am still here, still around. I was blown away by the comments and replies to my comment. Doris, Eric, Julie, and landschooner, ( am I leaving anyone out ? ) .. I do want to thank you for your prayers and concerns. Since I wrote the comment, things have not changed much, and I am trying to see, feel, and “read” the situation with my wife, a bit better. There are still some aspects of my wife’s behavior in this matter, that I do not fully understand, and I want to talk to her about it.
    I am not giving this up, and I am not “giving in” to my coworker’s smiles and attention. After 20 years of marriage and the kids, there is a lot in this marriage that is well worth fighting for. And I intend to work on it, as much as I possibly can. I wanted you all to know this. Later on, I would love to write a more detailed reply to all of you, because there are points in everybody’s comments that are so on target, and so true, that i really would like to write on a bit more, if it’s OK with Julie.
    Didn’t want to leave you all hanging, that’s all.
    Still here, still kicking.

  15. JulieSibert says:

    Thank you for your comment Jeremy… and yes, you certainly can write more. Blogs are a great place with a somewhat open forum for people to share ideas, insights, etc.

    Be encouraged…

  16. Dan says:

    Jeremy,

    Just a short observation. Your post have a lot “I” statements in it. I need this, I need that. Your wife says she need spiritual intimacy (can I assume this means emotional intimacy) Wives as called to submit to husbands AS TO CHRIST. Are you being Christ-like? Are you putting her first? Do you to uplift her with NO EXPECTIONS of anything (sex) in return. If she truly means spiritual intimacy, does she feel you idolize sex instead of putting God first. Does she feel you you want more for yourself than you do for her? Just some hard questions to ask yourself. And as for looking at your co worker – my brother, you’ve already put a foot on the adultary path. Don’t go down it. Keep your thought pure and centered on God first, then your spouse, then your children.

  17. landschooner says:

    So his wife’s actions dont matter?. See Rev 3 Laodicea. Christ doesnt care how the church acts?

    As the leader of his household, of his wife, Jeremy CAN very well call out sins He sees in his family, just as Christ does. Maybe Jeremy is being VERY Christ-like in pointing out these issues.

    Of course, we all need to be more Christ like. ALL of us do. None of us are there. NONE of us. So does that give spouses a pass? No sex because, “Hey, you’re not Christlike enough, so I dont need to have sex with you despite what the bible says! Despite the fact that you’re my husband.”

    Guess I’m just tired of the one being refused getting the blame. Its tantamount to telling the wife of a disinterested husband, “Hey, just dress sexier. That will get him interested!”

    As far as having a wandering eye at work. Yup, he needs to control that. despite his wife pouring gasoline on that fire. But make no mistake, she IS pouring gasoline on that fire.

    LS

  18. Will says:

    “Not married = No sex.

    This point isn’t too hard to get, is it? I mean, it’s pretty engrained in the Christian psyche.

    So doesn’t it stand to reason that the other half of the equation is equally true?

    Married = Sex.”

    Sadly I was raised this way, but find the opposite to be true.

    Not married = Sex
    Married = No sex.

    I am sick and tired of all the excuses. Once a month or once every 6 weeks is not what I signed up for. I am sick that she has dumped this on me. She denies there is NO problem, and all the responsibility of a married sex life is on me. It is hard being rejected and being told no for 30 days only to get a yes.

    We will always be tired, stressed, in a financial bind…etc…..

    How can someone so smart be so stupid???? Why is it ok for her to call me selfish for wanting sex more than she does, but her actions are not selfish. She has told me point blank if there is infidelity, then the marriage is over. Seriously, she forces abstinence on us and that has not killed the marriage? I know you are starving to death, but I will not feed you, and also you can not go out to eat…..

    I do get mad, hurt and resentful by what she has done to us. She often says why are you in a bad mood. “why do you think” that’s followed by a whatever or get over it.

    I am 40…and I can not live like this for another year……I am 40 not 80. She has robbed us of 7 years.

    We need some serious help. I can not live like this. Nothing I do seems to get through to her. I am almost to the point where a divorce would be welcomed. I vowed Monogamy when I got married and she gave me celibacy.

    Sorry for the rambling.. I am tired, mad and upset.

  19. landschooner says:

    1 Cor 7.

    To withhold sex from your spouse is defrauding your spouse and it is sin. One of the major reasons for GETTING married is to have a sexual relationship. The teaching is very clear that sexual relations in marriage be regular and often. Abstaining from sex is to be only for a short time of prayer and fasting IF mutually agreed upon, and this time of prayer and fasting should be short.

    It ISN’T for “Ive put too many things on my plate so my spouse should just suck it up and I don’t need sex so neither should they”

    Sex in marriage is definitional. If the sexual refusal is long term, then marriage counseling, pastoral counseling and even eventually Matthew 18 discipline is called for if nothing changes.

    I’m sorry you are going through this.

    LS

  20. Eric V says:

    Hello again, Jeremy. Just some incoherent thoughts here.

    From what I’ve read and heard, a lack of sex is often a barometer for deeper issues in the relationship like poor communication, not being heard, not having a voice and so on. When your house is cold and you look at the thermometer and it says 15 (celsius), it’s not the thermometer’s fault. Turn up the thermostat!
    Does she dismiss other concerns besides sex that you have? Say just for example, she makes a habit of criticizing you in front of your friends and just blows you off when you complain? Does she frequently make snide comments and when you ask her to stop she just says you’re overly sensitive? These are just examples.

    We all make mistakes, forget things, say stupid things and what not. We apologize and move on. Does she do that?
    Can you even bring up issues in a gentle, but firm manner? On another page a man was often being teased by his wife who would show her body to him but had no intent of being intimate at that time or even in the near future. He was afraid that if he brought it up that it really hurt him she’d totally shut him out sexually. I see the real problem there as his being afraid to voice his concerns and if rightly so, her lack of maturity in over-reacting.

    The real issue is communication. Can you communicate? If not, counselling/therapy would be a must for you to rebuild your relationship. Of course sex is important. However, it’s your needs, reasonable ones that are important and if your needs aren’t important to her, any of your needs that is, that is the real problem.

  21. Chris says:

    I am in about the same situation with my wife. We waited for sex until married, sex was frequent for a year and she was passionate
    FOR me, she actually desired me. Well, perimenopause and now
    menopause has turned her desire off like a light switch. She will be with me if I want to, maybe once every couple months, but she rarely, if ever asks for it. She doesn’t desire it or me, just basically
    mercy sex. That is not making love, I want a woman to desire me,
    if she doesn’t, I can’t get much out of it. I have stressed that we made a commitment, and getting married older, we should be willing to do whatever it takes to compensate for that to be able to be healthy and maintain passionate sex within the marriage, if that means hormone supplementation then both of us should be willing to do that even though there are risks, there are risks of carrying on with low hormones, I’m about to do something about my low testosterone myself. She does not want medical help, she says this is how God has made her for this phase of her life and if I love her I just need to accept it. We are only in our late 40’s mid 50’s, it’s not like we are 80 yet. You can do all the loving things but when there is a hormone deficiency, it is the missing link.

  22. Kaitlyn says:

    I agree,sex is important to make people closer when married.It shouldn’t be the end of the world though.You marry someone because you love them,no matter what.You don’t marry someone to get some.Yes,it’s a bonding experience,but,you are with them to love and care for them,not just to worry about getting some.And to divorce/cheat on the person you supposedly “love”,just cause you didn’t get some?Well that shows what you care about most.Marriage is about being connected,loving each other no matter what,and working together.Would you just love someone less or cheat because they didn’t give into your horny-ness when you want?That’s terrible.Sex is supposed to be for just the two of you,WHEN YOU BOTH WANT IT,and is supposed to be a loving and connecting experience,but if you are willing to get it elsewhere,then it shouldn’t even happen with the person you are married to,if you are able to just get it anywhere.But girls shouldn’t have to be the ones to do what they don’t want to.Yes,sex can be important,but getting married,doesn’t make her a man’s slave.If she doesn’t want to,she doesn’t want to.Think how a girl may think.You men say sex is how you feel wanted and connected,but,to a girl,it may feel like you just keep her around to get some.Men say they want sex so they can feel connected and wanted with and by the person they love,but then they cheat.So really,you aren’t wanting it out of love and wanting a connection that person,you just wanted to get some,otherwise you wouldn’t be cheating.A wife should not be someone made to satisfy your needs,when you don’t even care for her back.When she gives you sex when you want it,then you don’t even show her sweet or caring gestures like saying I love you,giving her kisses,hugging her,cuddling her,and doing things outside of hoping that leads to getting some,it makes a woman feel like the purpose of her presence is to be there for your sexual needs.And the situation can be opposite as well.Sometimes women can be the ones to want sex and the guys don’t and feel used.

  23. Abe says:

    Kaitlyn’s position sounds like she is defending her “right” to avoid sex, but, her position is actually sin, according to the Bible. She puts a price tag on getting sex, and that is a sin.

    If a person doesn’t want sex, then they shouldn’t get married. Just find some platonic friends.

    Isaac took Rebekah into his tent, and she became his wife, it says in Genesis. How? They didn’t have a ceremony in there. They had sex.

    There was lots of sex going on in every marriage you see in the Bible. Sex is everywhere in every marriage. It’s unnatural and ungodly to not desire it and give it freely to the spouse.

    A couple men above posted their frustrations with spouses that avoid sex (or even worse, use it as some kind of subtle weapon).

    That is why it must be repeated: MARRIAGE = SEX.

    If a person is against frequent sex, then they shouldn’t get married.

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