I recently heard about a married couple that prays right before they have sex: "Lord, thank You for this gift that we are about to receive." I love the way this prayer puts sex into the right context, but I will never again be able to keep a straight face when someone prays this prayer before eating a meal!
Sex is a wonderful gift given by God to a married couple as a means of experiencing a sacred union — the deepest, most profound intimacy with our spouse (Genesis 2:24).
As a couple, how do we best steward this amazing gift that God has given to us? I'm going to speak to the husbands, and my wife, Erin, will speak to the wives in a different article.
A husband needs to earn the right to enter her body.
A common complaint from husbands: "My wife isn't interested in sex." It's easy to blame this lack of desire on her busy schedule, the endless household responsibilities, the kids, her job, the errands and so on. Certainly stress and exhaustion negatively impact your wife's libido, but you have no control over the rigors of managing a family. The solution isn't for your wife to ignore her exhaustion and "just do it" — that's not your place to demand.
Instead, focus on something that you have control over — you. Husbands, instead of complaining that your wife isn't interested in sex, you need to earn your way into the marriage bed.
Look at how our bodies were made for sex. The way a man's body was created implies "initiation" and taking the lead. By God's perfect design, physiologically, before intercourse is even possible, the man must initiate an erection. The word erect means to create, initiate, establish or build something. Husbands, in the same way that we need to become erect before entering our wife sexually, it's our job to first initiate gaining access to her heart. Before entering the marriage bed, we need permission and our wife's blessing.
I think one main reason a wife loses her desire for sex is that her husband becomes complacent and stops trying to earn his way into the marriage bed. What? you might be thinking. I thought the apostle Paul said, “The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:4-5, NLT). I shouldn't have to earn anything; it's her responsibility to respond. Her body is mine.
Wrong! Although we shouldn't withhold sex from our spouse, we can't adopt an attitude that my wife's body is mine, so I don't need to do anything to woo her. Instead, I really like Dr. Al Mohler's take on the man's responsibility:
Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed.… Therefore, when I say that a husband must regularly "earn" privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife the confidence, affection and emotional support that would lead her to freely give herself to her husband in the act of sex.
How does a husband earn his way into the marriage bed?
If you want your wife to be more interested in sex, become interesting. If she seems indifferent, unresponsive or uninterested to your sexual advances, then become attractive — allure her and catch her eye. In the Bible we see God acting in the role of a husband when He is trying to win back His unfaithful bride — the children of Israel. Hosea 2:14 (NIV) says, "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." This is significant. God the husband isn't saying that His wife should respond to Him simply because it's her duty. Instead, He takes the initiative and pursues His wife. He starts His quest to win her back by "alluring" her. He is trying to catch her eye — to captivate her. How does He attract her attention? He goes after her heart.
Author and counselor Donald Paglia explains that you might want to try courting your own spouse: "Part of what makes a relationship romantic is the excitement that comes with discovering a new person and noticing that that person cares about you. Of course, this doesn't mean marrying a new person but rather, courting your spouse as though you are still bent on winning his or her love. Basically, it means retooling those very things that were a part of your earlier relationship but without the threat of rejection or loss."
"I will lead her into the wilderness" means that God is taking her back to the place where their love story began. God is trying to get His bride away from all the distractions and focused on when they first fell in love. Men are great at wooing women before marriage. What did you do to win your bride's hand in marriage?
Be a man worthy of her body. If you want respect, then be respectful. Provide for her financial needs, in whatever way possible. Protect her from all dangers. Keep up your physical appearance and have good personal hygiene. Have high moral character. Be faithful.
Be tender. To captivate His wife, God the Husband speaks to her tenderly. Tenderness is an aphrodisiac to a woman. This is why several times in the Bible a husband is reminded to be tender. Consider Colossians 3:19, "Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them" and 1 Peter 3:7 (NIV), "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
Connect emotionally with your wife. Men are quickly turned on and aroused sexually, but women need more time to be ready for that physical connection. They need to feel safe and valued. So create that safety. Invest yourself in a marriage that feels like the safest place on earth to the woman you love.
You may have heard that the Old Testament term for sexual intercourse is "to know." Though the language has changed, it's still true today that the intimacy required for a fulfilling sexual connection is based on completely knowing your wife and putting her needs above your own.
Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author of Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage. This article was adapted from Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage by Greg and Erin Smalley, © 2015 by The Wholehearted Marriage, LLC. Reprinted by Permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Focus on the Family has resources and counseling to help you and your family. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) or help@FocusOnTheFamily.com.