I received an email the other day from a gentleman who was looking for a particular article where the writer — a woman — referred to sex with her husband as ministry.
The “sex as ministry” argument kind of goes like this: If he wants sex, she should oblige and see it as her opportunity to serve him and serve the Lord.
I couldn’t recall the article he was searching for, but the topic itself did get me thinking about this whole line of thought about a wife’s duty (or ministry) to her husband when it comes to sex.
My initial reaction is I agree. I’ve often said that I believe sex is intended to be one of the sweetest forms of worship in a marriage.
I get the whole “sex as ministry” argument.
To a point.
Interestingly, when I read the email, I realized how we rarely hear of sex referred to as a husband’s duty to his wife, even though that is part of the biblical model as well.
If we can argue it as ministry for a wife, certainly it also is ministry for a husband, right?
Every marriage speaker and writer can easily quote 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, in which Paul admonishes…
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone, but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone, but also to his wife.
Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Reading it out loud, the mutuality is clear, right?
But as those verses pass through so many Christian filters, we tend to land with a heavy emphasis on a wife’s duty to be sexually available to her husband.
Maybe we land there because we so often hear (or assume) that wives are the only ones sexually refusing. And honestly, most emails that flood into me are from discouraged husbands who want more sexual intimacy, yet their wives are indifferent — at times even adversarial — to the matter.
That’s not always the case, though. There are plenty of women who want more sex in their marriage and simply aren’t getting it.
Whichever side you’re on, this is a crucial question to explore…
Do you see sex as duty?
Let that question bounce around in your head and heart a bit. Mull it over. Hold it up against your own marriage and see what you conclude.
Yes, sex in marriage is “duty” and “ministry” and a host of other Christian-y words.
But when it is reduced to nothing more than that, we rob ourselves of the abundant potential and benefit of sex. Pure thievery.
Too many people sacrifice “privilege” and “oneness” on the altar of “duty,” and then wonder why their marriage lacks true intimacy.
And here is the crux of the matter, really. Sex is one of the EASIEST things to postpone in our frantic and cumbersome and messy lives. Easy I tell you.
For some people, rationalizing away the need and desire for sex in their marriage is almost second nature. They don’t even have to think about it. “Sex is not a need,” some will say.
And I know there are marriages where this isn’t about “life got crazy;” it’s about “our marriage has deep problems.”
As married folk, God always is calling us to seek and appreciate and understand His vision for such a covenant relationship. He gives us ample instruction, road signs, guidelines and boundaries to unpack that vision.
And in the beginning, I think we are enthusiastic about such a journey.
Along the way, though, too many people lose sight of sexual privilege — and become consumed with a battle about sexual duty.
Instead of going through the motions when you have sex, will you fight for a better truth in your marriage?
If you see sex only as duty, you will rarely experience it as privilege.
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16 thoughts on “Hey Wives, Stop Looking at Sex as Duty”
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I don’t think duty is such a bad word. In our culture, where pursuing pleasure and our own way has become such an idol, the concept of duty brings bad connotations and people see “duty” as the opposite of “pleasurable.” But that’s a false dichotomy. Some things are duties AND are pleasurable. There is no reason that duties cannot be pleasant. I think we need to get away from seeing duties as some horrible thing we do only because we have to.
There are plenty of things that I have a duty to do (like feed my children, vote in elections, witness to people around me, etc.) that I don’t find burdensome or unpleasant. In fact, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of things that are important in all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Recognizing a duty to do certain things can help us overcome lower priorities and distractions that would keep us from having the happy and fulfilling life we are meant to have.
Recognizing the duty to have sex within marriage can work that way as well. If we will stop considering duty a bad word and start seeing duties as things that should have priority in our lives in order to give us meaningful, fulfilled, and happy lives, then we all might be better off.
How I view and treat my wife, has a great deal to do with the effectiveness of my prayers. I would encourage reading all of 1 Peter 3, it has content for both husbands and wives. How we treat our wife is very important to our Lord. It about the attitude of the heart, not about doing a duty.
There are many scriptures that talk about pleasing our wives sexually, so our attitude about sex with our wives can affect our prayer life.
1 Peter 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:8-12 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For,“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. “He must turn away from evil and do good;He must seek peace and pursue it. “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,And His ears attend to their prayer,But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
@Lindsay Harold… I agree with you. i just think it is unfortunate that when some wives view sex primarily as duty, they discount the opportunity for pleasure and privilege.
I know a lot of it is semantics. You make some good points though.
Thank you for your continued work to address such a key component of any successful marriage.
My specific question is related to wives who are so fundamentally selfish that they openly and without remorse tell their husbands that they “dont care if it is a need or not, just deal with it.” I am married to such a woman.
Context – I take care of myself physically, am a high wage earner, make every effort to lead our family in Gods plan, and spend virtually all my free time pandering to the needs of an increasingly selfish woman. My wife refuses counseling, does not want to address our problems openly, and tells me to “just masturbate more.” To make problems worse, on one of the FEW times we had sex this year she had quit using birth control and is now pregnant. Effectively, I am stuck in marriage that is living hell with a woman who openly admits she does not care about filling my needs.
The only two futures I see are living in misery with a woman who has no care for her husband or separating and subjecting this accidental child to a broken home.
Prayers and advice greatly appreciated…
I just wish it weren’t such a battle for most wives to find sexual intimacy appealing and desirable. 🙁
Though some married couples might be good at “faking” it, the strength of their relationship and intimacy is noticeable in public settings through their body language around each other (lack of eye contact or smiling, lack of mutual touch and complimenting each other, tone of voice, etc.) It’s very difficult to fake those not-so-subtle things.
Great point, Julie! I also believe that sex is a marital duty, but when we stop there it can be read as a schlep-yourself-to-the-bedroom-and-oblige activity. Which is definitely not what God intended!
He calls us to fulfill duties, but then He blesses these moments with His generous love. So that when you make love in your marriage as God designed, it’s a “duty” with pleasure, intimacy, generosity, and love. Not just a duty, but so much more.
This really hit home for me! When we see sex only as duty, truly something more precious is lost. And sex is so easy to put off!! More sex=better marriage in my opinion. God’s awesome design! Thanks Julie! 🙂
I definitely think that if either party sees sex as a duty, they are missing out on the blessing. For me, duty sex builds resentment, so I have worked hard to changing my mindset. When I hear other women talk about duty sex, I just want to tell them that it can be better if they want it to be. I’m not saying that occasional duty sex isn’t called for, but not as a way of life.
As a husband struggling with a low desire wife who doesn’t yet understand the depth of the problem….when I read:
“I received an email the other day from a gentleman who was looking for a particular article where the writer — a woman — referred to sex with her husband as ministry.”
My first thought with this guy is barking up the wrong tree. I am not sure of anyone in a wife’s position where hearing that sex is a “ministry” would suddenly jump and say “Holy cow, I never thought of it that way!”.
The hard truth is that a spouse has to come to this information on their own, or at least through someone who is NOT their spouse. While it may work in some cases, not sure it is the best path to healing.
This topic resonates, Julie. What stuck out to me was your statement that “wives are (so often) the only ones sexually refusing. . . . (and) wives are indifferent — at times even adversarial.” As a man I tend to agree, but I can readily see the woman’s side on this one.
A girl’s upbringing in our culture emphasizes her need to be defensive sexually with boys, who are generally on the offensive. Girls in their early teens are expected to protect their virginity (rightly) and it’s their role (as the gender that gets pregnant) to “restrain” boys (and themselves) from sex. There’s a myth that “boys can’t be trusted” to restrain themselves, or trusted to honor a girl’s sovereignty (and her right to respect), because of their “animalistic” lusts.
You can see where this leads. As girls become women, their defensive role becomes second nature. As a man, I sympathize with their plight because it’s plainly unfair to put woman in the main “responsible” role when the responsibility should be shared 50-50. Women’s equality! It’s about time!
Thank you for your understanding, J.Z. Howard – you have a heart of compassion and empathy.
It’s true it’s usually the girl’s responsibility to ‘guard’ herself – if not sexually, then at least emotionally. The thing is, emotional abuse and disappointments can dampen woman’s sexuality as badly as any physical abuse. Many women would be willing to live out their sexuality and femininity, but the experience has taught it’s best to ‘stay calm’ and not to get too excited about any attention from a man.. since he is likely to be a player (rightly or wrongly, this is the logic many of us have had to internalize during the years of living as a single woman…)
It truly takes divine wisdom and discernement to recognize a genuine Christian brother who would appreciate a generous, loving, sexual woman. I pray for such a blessing for myself as for all my single sisters in Christ.
I totally get what is being objected to about calling sex a duty and a ministry.
But it is SUCH a ministry. Yes, to BOTH spouses. I have to say, my husband has written me texts saying essentially, “I love your ministry to me.” It is a reasonable service, in the same way that offering our bodies to the Lord is a reasonable service in light of His love toward us. But it is a service that brings pleasure, too. It is meant to bind us, to unify us, to expose us, to change us. Done right, it’s vulnerable and raw, and healing. I am huge right now. 36 weeks pregnant. My husband makes me feel beautiful and sexy. I’m NOT sexy, and I know it. But to him, I am.
Sometimes, he needs sex from me, and I’m tired and my body aches and I cannot muster the energy for a marathon. And I’ll tell him, ‘I want to, but I’m exhausted. All the muscles under my belly hurt, and I can’t do the work right now — but you are welcome to a quickie if you’ll supply the energy.” It blesses me when he accepts my offer. Because I want to take care of him. I want to feel him inside me, even when I am too tired to climax myself. And that quickie works its magic in both of us. He’s contented enough to do what he needs to, but has a background idea that he wants more from me later, and lets me know it all the next day, and I respond to the testosterone he’s left me with, and the communication I get all day, and it puts me in the mood. Plus, I’ve had a night’s rest.
My husband is in ministry. I see my ministry to him as essential in his ability to minister to others. It grieves me to read about so many marriages marred by a lack of sexual intimacy. It is so antichristian. And I get it — selfishness destroys our libidos. It makes unloving demands and unloving refusals. And it brings baggage in that multiplies mental disorders through guilt and regret. And it makes men impatient so they don’t learn their own wives’ bodies well enough to make them want it. Frankly, if I got just enough worked up to bring him satisfaction, and then he rolled over and went to sleep, but I was frustrated every time, I wouldn’t be too into it, either. It’s easier for a woman to live sexlessly than frustratedly. Yes, it is a duty for both spouses. Husbands, LOVE your wives. In the bedroom, and out of the bedroom. Make sure she’s happy, and she’ll likely want more later. Wives, show respect for him. His sexuality is part of his design, and you dishonor him as a man by treating his needs with disdain.
A pastor we served under used to chide the men in the fellowship for wanting their wives to be more like them. “Do you realize how close you are to asking for a homosexual marriage?” We need to recognize our differences and embrace them. Men, so what if your wife doesn’t have the same drive as you? Don’t fault her for it, lead her with yours. But make her enjoy it. And women, stop treating his sex drive like an aberrant perversion. If he’s asking YOU, his wife, for sex, he’s going where he should for it! Tell him what you like! Let him in!
I heard a woman complaining once that she didn’t feel like sex, but her husband wanted it. “If your husband needs sex more than you want it, then have sex more often than you feel like it.” What is the big deal? You love him, don’t you? I mean, we are talking about decent men, here, right? Not men trying to act out porn on their wives, or hurt them in some way? Perfect place to insert a little duty sex. Just do it kindly, and it’ll grow.
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He gives us ample instruction, road signs, guidelines and boundaries to unpack that vision.
If so, why are so many guys ‘n gals wandering around in the wilderness desperately searching for manna and water? HA!
It truly takes divine wisdom and discernment to recognize a genuine Christian brother who would appreciate a generous, loving, sexual woman. I pray for such a blessing for myself as for all my single sisters in Christ.
After being in a sexless marriage since the very first week, 35 years ago now, I think it also takes “divine wisdom and discernment” to find a generous, loving, sexual, wife. No shortage of these women. I prayed for such a blessing for myself from the “I will to the I do” for God’s protection from my own bad decisions that I wasn’t making the biggest mistake of my life. I really didn’t think I was either. No red flags or reservations at all until after the ring went on and I realized in that first week it was all a “bait and switch”.