An RM note: Sexual intimacy in marriage is a glorious gift from God, but it's also a very sensitive topic. We recognize that although many women will relate to normal feelings of tiredness and exhaustion that make intimacy challenging, there are many others struggling with deeper issues of sexual brokenness from past sin, pornography, postpartum depression, physical ailments, or other relational issues. There are many times in life where biblical truth applies and gives us hope, but we also might need to talk to an older couple, a biblical counselor, or a doctor for additional help and insight.
This is a guest post by Laura Hardin.
As a mom of two under two, I am pretty much always tired, which means I pretty much always have a “good” reason to not invest in my marriage.
In fact, if there was ever a time where I felt like I had every right to reject my husband’s advances, it’s now. I feel like I have nothing to give even as I write this.
But feelings do not determine truth, do they?
The reality is that God designed marriage to mirror his relationship with his church, a relationship marked by the giving of oneself for the betterment and joy of another. And just like we can’t take a break from God without our spiritual health declining, we also can’t take a break from our spouses without it impacting the health of our marriages. Similarly, just like the Lord secures our union with him by the Holy Spirit, he also empowers our union with our men by that same Holy Spirit, which means there is hope for us yet.
But first we need to zoom out and gain more perspective.
As children of God, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself up for us. This faith causes us to, in turn, love him and give ourselves up to him. We deny ourselves each day in order to walk with him by his precious Spirit—a guarantee of his commitment to us.
Another word for intimacy is closeness. Marital intimacy mirrors the closeness that God desires between himself and his church. Sex becomes more beautiful with this in mind, offering a glimpse of the glorious oneness between Christ and his beloved bride, a unity that comes by way of preferring the good of another over yourself.
I love how the Christian Standard Bible translates 1 Corinthians 7:4, “A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does.” In other words, my body is called to do what is good for my husband, and his body is called to do what is good for me. I do not have the right to deprive my husband of that good, and neither does he have the right to deprive me. But after a long day with my babies, no rest, and working on whatever I can in what minutes I have remaining, I pretty much feel like I have every right over my body, every right to deny my husband, every right to put off cultivating intimacy in our marriage.
Yet no matter what I feel, I can’t deny the wisdom in these verses. God did not give this to us as some arbitrary rule. God created marriage, sex, and its pleasure, and he knows exactly what it takes to cultivate healthy marriages, how to nurture the oneness that points to him and brings us all incredible joy. If I deprive my husband, I not only deprive him, I deprive myself and our marriage as a whole. For marital intimacy is to a healthy marriage what abiding in the Lord is to a healthy, fruit-yielding walk with Christ: absolutely necessary.
We know this, right? And we would be all for it—if it was easy.
Maybe it’s easier than we think.
Everything is from him, to him, and through him—even marital intimacy. To make it more clear, the path to marital closeness is through the One who created it in the first place.
Praise God that I am not left to my own devices. While it can be helpful to get creative and discover fresh ways to spice things up, God promises to work in us both to will and to work for his own good pleasure, which means he is my greatest ally in cultivating rich intimacy in my marriage. And that is great news, mama!
Let’s Start with Prayer
When I don’t feel up to pursuing intimacy with my husband, I look to the One who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. When everything in me is exhausted, I turn to my humble, self-sacrificing King in prayer, knowing that his wisdom in marriage is trustworthy, and that I can trust him to take care of me.
The conversation goes something like this:
After noting my husband’s desire and not feeling the same heat, I turn over and pray, “Lord, would it be good for me to have sex tonight? Or is this one of those times when he needs to compromise?”
Nine times out ten I have a change of heart within ten minutes, sometimes accompanied with strong desire and other times accompanied with a seed of hope that I might get my head in the game and enjoy it.
“Lord, help me,” I often pray in those moments, and he always does. Each time this happens, God increases my understanding of the value of sex in a healthy marriage. He helps me see that this matters to him by flooding my mind with thoughts of my husband’s devotion to me, his sacrifices both great and small, our courtship, all the things I appreciate about him, memories I treasure but often forget. Suddenly, there is nowhere else I want to be than in my husband’s arms. And this is God’s doing.
He is glorified by this kind of sacrifice. And he loves to lavish grace on our marriages. We only need pray for the grace bath.
Can we set aside our feelings, our rights, our needs in the moment and ask him to lavish us with his help?
I would much rather talk about things on my heart or cuddle until I fall asleep or go out on a cheap, thoughtful date. But I never regret these intimate moments. I never regret loving my husband this way, receiving his love, or sensing God’s blessing over our union.
I guess this whole sex thing is pretty important, and I’ve found that when I choose my husband over myself, it becomes a sweet oasis for us in one of the most challenging seasons of our lives.
To clarify, my husband doesn’t desire sex every night, which makes me feel even worse when I reject him. Because we’ve taken time to communicate where we are in this area, he often understands how I feel and doesn’t take it personally when I would prefer to rest—that is, unless I’m putting it off for weeks on end.
The truth is we are both exhausted. We look forward to days when it won’t take a week to get through a movie, when giving up sleep to be with each other doesn’t feel like such a hard sacrifice, when time doesn’t feel like a hot commodity, but we are also thankful for the way this season challenges, stretches, and grows our love for one another. Our challenge is to steal moments to express that love in the marriage bed.
Help us, Lord.