In Part 1 of Good Sex: Biblical Keys to Unlocking Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, I gave you two guidelines or key to having good sex in your marriage. In this post I want to answer two questions: Are there legitimate times, however, when a married couple can or should abstain from sexual intimacy? If so, why should a couple refrain from sexual intimacy?
Paul told the Corinthians that in order for them to experience good sex, intimacy, enjoyment and oneness in their marriage, a couple should actually do something that is counterintuitive. Paul says that in order for a couple to have good sex, they should:
- AGREE TO ABSTAIN FROM SEXUAL RELATIONS
… except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; v. 5
A married couple can and should abstain from sex with one another. According to our passage, there are three conditions that a couple should meet to refrain or not have sexual relations:
- Mutual agreement
- For a limited time
- For the purpose of prayer – getting closer to God.
This period of abstinence requires a couple to communicate with one another. Healthy communication is one of the aphrodisiacs of the marriage relationship. Good sex is built on communication unity in the marriage. Both should agree on the period of abstinence.
This time of abstinence should be for a limited duration. This time, should not be weeks, months or years, but a reasonable period of time. Among other things, this brief period of abstinence creates desire and anticipation.
This period should be devoted to drawing closer to God and receiving guidance from Him. When we are seeking God in this way, we want as few distractions as possible. I suppose you could call this abstinence for drawing closer to God a sex fast – abstaining from sexual relations to devote our minds, bodies and our hearts to pursue God more deeply.
There is only one relationship more important than the marital relationship, and that is our relationship with God. We should, through mutual consent, decide to withhold sexual intimacy to get closer to God. Remember, being in fellowship with a good God is more important than having good sex. In fact, being in fellowship with God will only enhance your sexual intimacy.
There may be some couples listening to me right now, who are depriving one another of sexual intimacy, but it is not for the reason of praying and getting closer to God. Some couples are depriving one another because they are angry, too busy, too tired, or because of other unresolved issues.
If you are too busy, tired, or bitter for sex in your marriage, you are way too busy, tired and bitter. Now, if you are depriving your spouse of sex, and it is because of past sexual, physical or emotional abuse, seek help so you can work through those issues. If you are the one being deprived, ask God for the capacity to love beyond your present ability. There is a fourth guideline or key to unlocking sexual intimacy in marriage.
- RESUME NORMAL SEXUAL RELATIONS
but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
After this temporary abstinence, the couple should come together again for a normal and healthy sexual relations. If you were experiencing sexual intimacy 2-3 times a week, then you should resume that rhythm. If you received a word from the Lord to bump it up 2 or 3 more times, then we should not take anything away from his word. The key to having good sex is to resume normal and healthy sexual relations.
There is a legitimate reason for this command: to neutralize Satan’s temptations. Satan loves to wage war on marriage, and he uses the beautiful gift of sex to do it. If a couple goes without sex in their marriage for extended periods of times, then Satan will use it to make a business partner look good, or an email sound like an advance, or to create a warped emotional connection. If we are not careful, Satan will use depriving one another to tempt us to go to someone else to get our sexual needs fulfilled. This is not God’s plan. So, we are called to protect our marriages by being alert, but more importantly meeting one another’s sexual needs.
- Should a married couple have sex when only one partner desires sex?
Yes. The passage we walked through over the last couple days indicates yes.
No. If you violate the law of love, then no you should not. If your spouse is genuinely fatigued or ill, then your love should move you to honor his/her wishes. If there are emotional issues that prevent him/her from engaging in sexual intimacy, then you should honor that request. Now, if you are the responder, then you should give some indication when would be a good opportunity to be sexually intimate.
- Is prayer and pursuing God the only time a couple should abstain from sexual relations?
There are some other exceptions, I believe. If there is physical and emotional abuse happening in the relationship or if there is physical, emotional and virtual unfaithfulness, then the couple should spend time and energy reconciling these issues before engaging in sex intimacy. Other than that, drawing closer to God seems to be the only legitimate reason a couple should abstain from sexual relations.
- Is withholding sex from my spouse a sin?
Yes. This passage seems to say we are sinning against God and your spouse. We need to confess that like any other sin and repent of that sin. We could fit this sin into a couple of categories – selfishness and pride.
- How often should a married couple have sex?
The Bible doesn’t give a number. This is something on which you should agree and be unified. No two people desire sex with the same frequency, so it is normal that one person will wish it more often than another. The spirit of Paul’s words here are that a couple should have sexual relations often enough that “the more eager” partner will not feel a regular strain of going unfulfilled. To put it in Paul’s terms, you are not having intercourse frequently enough if you “burn with passion” (7:9).
5. What sexual practices are okay and what sexual practices are not okay in marriage?
There are various opinions about this subject. So, I offer you my opinion as I understand what the Scriptures say and do not say. First, mutuality is key. This means you can do what is mutually agreed upon. Both spouses will have to sacrifice and make adjustments for the sake of oneness and intimacy. The wife may have to go beyond her comfort zone. The husband may have to give up his fantasy of having sex 5 times a day. These kinds of sacrifices must be made for the sake of the bigger and grander vision of oneness and intimacy in the relationship.
Specific practices that often fit this question are oral sex, rear-vaginal penetration, various positions, and who should initiate. I see no prohibitions or injunctions in Scripture of these kinds of behaviors. Again, if these kinds of behaviors do not provide mutual pleasure or make your spouse uncomfortable, then you should refrain. To insist he/she do something that is uncomfortable or painful is not loving and will only lead to resentment and make him/her “feel less than.”
Now, I want to emphasize that there are sexual practices that the Bible forbids: adultery (this includes swinging), pre-marital sex, bestiality, incest, rape, homosexual intercourse, and pornography. Though there are no verses that say we shouldn’t, I would advise against couples using or watching pornographic video and books to spice of their sex lives. I believe these types of behaviors increase our chances of violating Jesus’ lust principle in Matthew 5:27-30.
God gave us this beautiful gift call sex for us to enjoy in the context of marriage. For some couples, sex has been everything they dreamed. Unfortunately, for others, it has been pain and a big disappointment, to say the least. I believe when we have sex with our spouses only, strive to mutually fulfill one another’s sexual needs, abstain for a period of time to draw close to and hear from God, and then resume normal sexual relations, God will begin to unlock and increase the joy of sexual intimacy in our marriages.
What was particularly helpful to you in this post?
What questions do you still have regarding what God says about sexual intimacy?
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