For this post today, I’m not referring to marriages that are in the throes of deep unresolved issues, unaddressed addictions and/or emotional or physical abuse.
I’m talking about average everyday marriages where sexual intimacy has been neglected, primarily by one spouse.
Sexual pursuit should be one of the safest things in marriage. One of the absolute safest things.
After all, sex is something you can experience only with your spouse. It is not a need or want you can fulfill with other people, at least not morally. For Christians, sex is often the one thing that stands out the most when we think of what differentiates marriage from all other relationships.
By its very design, sex is drenched in vulnerability. Profoundly intimate sexual encounters require not only a baring of our bodies, but a baring of our emotions, desires and insecurities. And especially when we are first learning each other sexually, we must expose our inexperience and fallibility.
When we agree to get married, we are agreeing to foster that kind of sexual vulnerability, upheld by an ongoing commitment to nurture love, respect and trust.
By the time most couples arrive at the altar or judge’s chambers to declare their commitment and covenant, they’ve spent countless moments getting to know each other. They’ve already taken risks simply by being willing to fall in love and to trust they have each other’s best interests at heart. They’ve possibly already together encountered heartaches and losses and challenges.
It’s not like we don’t know about risk when we take up camp in marriage.
One would think we would be seasoned to risk, at least a little bit. Add to this a bedrock of love, and it becomes counterintuitive that pursuing our spouse for sex should feel risky.
After all, where else would you go for sex? I mean, certainly it can’t be a shocker when spouses pursue each other sexually, right? It is intricate to marriage—that a husband and wife will hunger for each other sexually.
It should be one of the least risky things you do in marriage…to pursue your spouse sexually.
My inbox and comment log tell me differently. Sexual pursuit in marriage has become quite risky for many people. It has become a dangerous forbidden territory, only to be entered with a willingness to suffer.
Is sexually pursuing your spouse risky for you? If it is, I imagine it’s because you have felt the sting of rejection or even anger too many times.
The occasional brush off or shut down is one thing.
It’s the consistent ongoing rebuff time and time again that starts to chip away at sexual confidence (and all confidence, for that matter). For some people, pursuing their spouse sexually is quite risky, full of repercussions that may last well beyond the moment the bid is shot down.
Every marriage marked by ongoing sexual denial has its own circumstances or patterns that landed a husband and wife in that place. More often than not, it is one spouse reaching out for sex and the other refusing. They have taken up positions, so to speak, and the spouse desiring sex is always at the mercy of the spouse who holds the keys to sex.
This is a horrible dynamic in a marriage. It breeds distrust and contempt. It creates division (Satan’s favorite territory in a marriage, by the way). It fuels temptation and the pull to look elsewhere for sexual affection.
Is sexually pursuing your spouse risky for you? Sometimes the risk escalates over years. It’s no wonder that the pursuing spouse eventually concedes defeat.
Stops thinking “maybe this time will be different.”
Stops searching for the romantic tricks or tactics or trinkets that will convince their spouse that it’s not just about the sex; it’s about being with the person they love.
The risk is just too much. The odds of more pain and rejection just too high. Everyone’s risk tolerance varies, of course, but for some people, the risk of sexual pursuit becomes too much.
Interestingly, the denying spouse may feel a wave of relief when their spouse’s sexual interest wanes and then dissipates altogether. Ironically, in many marriages, this is when the marriage has reached a relational dead zone. The peace in the household is a facade. The complete absence of sex and sexual pursuit should spark grave concern about the stability and staying power of the marriage.
My purpose for this post is two-fold. One, to simply acknowledge that if sexually pursuing your spouse has become risky for you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that what should be one of the least risky expressions you make in your marriage has caused you the most trepidation.
Two, I want to say that if you have not shared with your spouse from this angle of why sexual pursuit has become risky for you, possibly now is the time to do that. Yes, I get that even that may feel too risky. Only you know in your marriage if it’s worth giving voice to this underlying disintegration of sexual intimacy.
My hope for your marriage is that you do believe it’s worth giving voice. And maybe…just maybe…your spouse will have a moment of humble courage to own what they’ve done. And to make efforts to heal the pain.
For more reading, you can cruise through my list of past posts, as well as my page with a bunch of posts on orgasm.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.
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8 thoughts on “Is Sexually Pursuing Your Spouse Risky for You?”
Wow! That was an interesting headline.
Seriously, I thought. Not risky? If only.
I’m reading Gary Thomas’ book Cherish and realising that my wife and I haven’t even begun to tap into cherishing each other. My heart is heavy writing this as a husband with a very restricted sexual routine with my wife and very little conversation about how we feel. Talking to my parents this week I realise where it comes from but I’m believing for better. God is love and He pursues us, loves us, gives Himself for us all the time.
I’m going to try cherishing my beloved but I know she wouldn’t even want to be cherished at the moment – it’s too uncomfortable if I understand her correctly. I’m optimistic but I’m going to need to One who loves unconditionally to get us there.
We’ve just ‘celebrated’ our 30th anniversary so should know better. It can be better. Is anyone with me?
I am with with you, afriend. For us, it has a struggle for over 40 years. in fact, I have been told that my sex drive is a weakness for me to overcome. Only once in years she has initiated sex with me. She has told me that initiating sex makes her feel uncomfortable…
It’s funny. You’d think that in a marriage there would be no inhibitions or nervousness or hesitation when it comes to communicating with each other verbally, sexually, etc. I am still hesitant when sexually pursuing my wife. I’m just not confident that any move i make towards her will be well received. It’s almost like there’s a part of the marriage where we’re still complete strangers to each other when there shouldn’t be any.
Sigh. Yes. I’m one who has given up the pursuit. Having nothing is less painful than the constant rejection and occasional tepid surrender.
Intimacy has always been a compromise in my wife’s eyes, even though I enjoy giving far more than receiving. Rather than appreciate that I’m still drawn to her after 30 years, my affection is a nuisance and romance falls flat.
And there’s another kind of risk than what the author suggests – the #MeToo movement has fueled the dynamic with aggressor / victim stereotypes. This both emboldens an attitude of refusal and makes treacherous footing for a spouse trying to keep the intimacy alive.
This is my reality. The risk of having to feel that rejection isn’t worth it anymore. I’ve already told my wife that I’m done initiating. She has consistently rejected me for so many years that I told her I can’t bear the rejection again. I told her a few years ago that she was going to have to be the one to initiate from then on. Our sex life was in her hands. Nothing has changed since, but I don’t feel the rejection. I’ve stopped expecting anything sexual from her. As long as I expect nothing, I can’t be disappointed.
Yes to all of this. I might add that when, as the wife, the risk has become too high (and all of the years of rejection and being shot down have lead to giving up) there is the added shame because society and even the church constantly tells us that men constantly want sex with their wives. When that’s not the case and even initiating doesn’t do anything it leaves a woman to question what is wrong with her.
Well Julie, you’ve done it again! Thanks. 😀
I feel for all those who have commented and it makes me so grateful for the wife I have!
For me, pursuing sex was a very “risky” thing but it all stemmed from my insecurities. God has been dealing with these insecurities. Being vulnerable with my wife about them has also helped to bring healing and wholeness (because of my sexually abused past). Now I am growing in my freedom to pursue my wife and she is loving it.
It is way too risky for me to pursue my wife right now and I plan on telling her so. She will either say no, or she will reluctantly give in and then make me feel bad about it later. She has told me that sexual intimacy isn’t that important in marriage but emotional intimacy is so much more important.