Respecting the Marriage Bed, Part 1

Editor’s Note: This is Part 6A from the Let’s Talk Sex series. 

The Need for Respect

It all starts in the head and the heart. By it, I mean a seven letter word – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Your husband thrives on respect. Men need to feel and know that they are respected. That’s the way they are hardwired. Ephesians 5:33 says, “…let the wife see also that she respects her husband.” As a wife, you are created to be his helpmeet, his ezer kenegdo, his ‘sustainer-beside-him,’ but you can’t really be helpful and sustain the marriage if you don’t respect your husband. When you disrespect your husband, you forget your specifically and uniquely designed role in a marriage.

Men are also incredibly physical. They enjoy working with their hands whether it be working under the hood of the car or playing an Xbox game, whether it is building something or tearing something apart to see how it works. I call it “tinkering” when my husband is working on something to understand it better. Men were created to work. Men like to fix things. But they also deeply appreciate and admire physical beauty and crave physical intimacy. When a man is unable to work or can’t fix something, he feels defeated, and he desperately needs to be respected and uplifted. On the other hand, when a man can’t have sex or feels physically and emotionally insecure with his wife on the marriage bed, he perceives disrespect.

Some Actions that are Disrespectful

  • Withholding sex

One of the most disrespectful things you can do is to withhold sex from your husband, not just sexual intercourse, but open access to your beauty. Because men so often equate physical intimacy with love (men need sex to feel loved and women need love to have sex), withholding your body is the same thing as withholding your love and respect for your spouse.

When we were first married, I had an embarrassing habit of withholding physical affection and attention from my husband when I was angry or frustrated. It breaks my heart to think of the times I wouldn’t let him touch or hold me or refused him because I wanted to hurt him. Thank the Lord that He convicted my heart and made me aware of how sinful this was. Now I hate it when I hurt Adam, and although it sometimes takes everything within me and the help of the Spirit to stay when I’m mad at him, I stay because I love him, and ultimately because I respect him.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps 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.”

When a wife decides to withhold sex while her husband wants to continue having sex, this one-sided decision causes unnecessary tension and sorrow in the marriage. Temptations may arise for a man to seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere (i.e. pornography or an affair) if sex is withheld for too long.

Keith Krell, Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Bible Fellowship in Olympia, Washington, writes in his sermon, ‘A Touchy Issue,’

 “The word translated “stop depriving” literally means “do not rob one another,” or “do not do fraud to one another.” The word means to cheat somebody out of what is properly theirs. If you withhold your body when your partner seeks sex, it is biblical fraud. We have failed to satisfy and protect our spouse…” 

Withholding sex is disrespectful because it undermines his authority and attacks his manhood by refusing to meet his needs.

  • Belittling him or making fun of him sexually

A man’s physicality and sexuality are tightly interconnected to his ego. When you say mean things about his body or the way he performs, you are insulting his manhood. James 3 equates the disaster our tongues can create to a “forest fire.” The tongue has the power of life and death.

Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

When you, as a wife, don’t watch what you say to your husband, even if you meant in a teasing manner, you disrespect your husband, causing both physical damage to your sexual intimacy and emotional damage to his pride and self-image.

  • Discussing your sex life or venting to your girlfriends about your sexual problems with your husband

Your sex life with your husband is deeply intimate. It is meant to be private. Bringing in third parties is extremely disrespectful to your spouse because it takes something personal and makes it public.

Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It doesn’t say a man leaves his parents and becomes one flesh with his wife and she includes others. Her friends don’t actually have to be there to cause problems.

Complaining about your sex life problems with others is also disrespectful because it brings shame to your spouse when he cannot fulfill your sexual desires or needs and you leave him wide open for criticism, guilt, and hurt. 

Disrespect Shames. Respect Strengthens.

Proverbs 12:34 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.”

Disrespect shames your husband because it causes him pain when you dishonor him by withholding your physical beauty and body from him, when you dishonor him by making light of his sexual shortcomings or failure, and when you improperly include others in your sex life by betraying intimate details regarding your sex life.

Respect your husband by protecting yourselves from temptation by giving of yourself freely, willingly, and joyfully.

Respect your husband by uplifting him when he does please you, and encouraging him when he fails, or keeping silent instead of complaining to or criticizing  him.

Respect your husband by honoring the marriage bed as sacred and private, refusing to engage in gossip about your husband or another woman’s husband.

Strengthen your marriage by being respectful of your husband in your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

  • Think Positively

Reflect on the good things about your husband, focusing on the positives rather than the negatives. Don’t focus on his weakness and shortcomings. Start with this question: What is one good thing that your husband does for you sexually?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

  • Act Selflessly

Whether your husband forgets to take out the trash or forgets to spend time with you, you have a choice in how you react. Choose selflessness. This means taking out the trash for him without nagging him. This means forgiving him when he’s hurt you. It’s not your job to punish or condemn your spouse. Being selfless means sacrificing yourself for the good of someone else. Is it good to explode in anger? Is it good to withhold your love? No.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

  • Emote Lovingly

Love the way you would want to be loved. It doesn’t matter that you did all the chores in the house if you don’t have love. You are like a squeaky wheel on a cart in the grocery store, an embarrassment to your family and an annoyance to those around you. It doesn’t matter that you are kind to everyone outside your home if you aren’t kind to your husband. You are like a diseased lung, appearing fine to those around you, but rotting on the inside. Show your husband respect by being loving and considerate on the marriage bed.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I’d love to hear from you…

What ways can you show your husband respect and honor in your sex life?

To see other related posts in the Let’s Talk Sex series, click here

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6 Comments

  1. Nicole

    While respect is very important for marriage, there’s something that I want to point out. First of all, husband and wives are supposed to be a union, an equal partnership. Second of all, the “sex” part is very sexist and ignorant because I’m sure that you can withhold sex and still respect your husband…and you’re saying that women are only good for reproduction and that even if a wife doesn’t feel like having sex with her husband, she should still do it anyway? Well, while I understand that sex is natural for both genders, what’s more selfish? Withholding sex or wanting to have sex when your significant other doesn’t feel like it? Well, in my view, what’s more selfish is even when a wife doesn’t feel like having sex with her husband, he still demands that she still has sex with him anyway. Plus, I’d personally rather marry a husband who would love and respect me for who I am (and also for my brains and personality, not just my body), not just because I’m “physically beautiful (as you like to put it)”. Second of all, how is teasing necessarily disrespectful? Well, not necessarily because I’m sure that you can tease your husband and still love him; saying otherwise is ignorant. As for anger, it is NOT a sin; it’s just a god-given natural emotion and if the wife feels angry, then her husband should just let her get angry. As for venting, it’s equally normal and if a wife wants to vent to her friends about what goes on, likewise. Honestly, would it make you happy if she just sucks it all up and just keep sweet at all costs? Well, what if her husband abuses her? Beats her up? Tries to rape her? Demeans and degrades her? If he does all of the above, would you still tell her to still stay with him anyway? Well, I wouldn’t tell her that; instead, I would personally advise her to get a divorce (and call the cops if he’s been beating her) and leave him ASAP and I would also tell her that women should not (and I mean “SHOULD NOT”) stay in abusive relationships, no matter what. Plus, are you saying that women should be slaves/submissive helpmeets to their husbands? Women are equal citizens who deserve the same rights as everyone else. Plus, women should be able to control their own bodies (my body, my choice)…AND YOU’RE SAYING THAT THEY SHOULDN’T?! That’s completely sexist! It’s never the wife’s fault if her husband has a bad day; how dare you imply otherwise! I’m glad that I’ve been brought up in a home where my parents taught me to to think for myself, be responsible enough to get a job and be independent, control my own body and, when I would want to get married (not now, though), I would find a man who would love me for my personality (and brains, too) and not just for my looks/body. Call me a “crazy feminist” all you want; I don’t really care, I just wanted to point it all out.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Nicole. I feel the need to clarify some things that you brought up so I hope I’m able to address all your points.

      1. Wife/Husband union
      I don’t think at any point I said anything about a husband/wife not being a union and partnership. Correct me if I’m wrong. My husband & I totally believe that. I have equal input in our marriage, and he wants me to voice my opinions/thoughts/ideas, etc. I believe every husband and wife should.

      2. Withholding sex
      I do believe that you can withhold sex and still respect your husband. My husband and I are very open about this. If one of us isn’t in the mood or can’t have sex, we tell the other. We talk through it. Sometimes there are major issues behind they “why” and we take the time to work through problems first. We also have a saying we use, “I want to honor/love you in the best way that I can and right now I can’t honestly be sexual or have sex with you and do that so let’s wait.” And then we respect the other’s space. When I said withholding sex is disrespectful, I was talking about when one spouse withholds sex from the other spouse for a long, long period of time (months/years) for reasons other than health and ability and discomfort. Perhaps I should’ve clarified that. I was speaking to those couples who go on in sexless marriages for years. In those cases, yes, I would advise seeking outside help – counselor, physician, etc – and work through whatever issues may be apart of the reasons to abstain (within reason see below).

      3. Women are NOT just good for reproduction
      I didn’t say anything anywhere about women only being good for reproduction. In fact, I believe sex needs to be pleasurable for both partners, not just one, wife and husband both. I’ve said as much elsewhere on my blog. Sex is supposed to be beautiful, passionate, pleasurable, and wonderful for the woman just as much as for the man.

      4. Forcing your spouse to have sex is NEVER OKAY.
      I totally agree with you. Forcing your spouse to have sex when he/she doesn’t want to is wrong and unbiblical. I believe this is rape. You’re right. Demanding sex when the other partner can’t do it or doesn’t want to is selfish.

      5. Marriage for more than just the body
      Yes, a couple should be married for more reasons than just sex. Sex is an important aspect of marriage, but this isn’t the only reason and it shouldn’t be the first reason. My husband does want me for way more than my body – my brains, personality as you put it, character, someone to share his life, etc and vice versa. Husbands need to love their wives wholly and completely (body, heart, mind, and spirit) and wives need to reciprocate. This is what Paul talks about in Ephesians 5. It’s not feminist to want to be an equal in the marriage. That’s what we were created for. It’s not feminist to want someone to marry you for more than just your physical beauty, and for all of you. It’s biblical! I wouldn’t have married otherwise, and I wouldn’t encourage any woman to marry otherwise.

      6. Teasing vs. belittling
      You’re right. I used the word “teasing way.” I should’ve clarified that – There’s a big difference. Playful teasing and flirting is fine in a marriage (as long as the other partner is comfortable with it). My husband & I are often playful with one another and I believe this is healthy in marriage. If one spouse is unaware that you’ve crossed a line and are being spiteful or mean just for the fun of it, and is informed of it and continues to tease, or if one spouse purposefully puts down the other spouse in a way that makes him/her uncomfortable or upset, this is wrong. Anytime I’m not in the mood to “be teased” or don’t feel comfortable I let my husband know and he respects that, and vice versa.

      7. Anger
      No, anger is not sin. But anger is not a justification to sin. When either my husband or myself is angry, we try our hardest to take time out and cool off separately before coming back to resolve an issue to avoid saying things we don’t mean or hurting the other deliberately. Yes, husbands and wives should let the other know when they’re angry and work through those emotions both separately and together.

      8. Venting
      I don’t believe venting to others in the manner of gossiping or sitting around complaining ad nauseum to friend about marital or sexual issues is healthy or Biblical. I’ve mentioned this in several posts recently. Work out issues between you & God first and get your heart in the right place. Then if you need to talk to someone other than your spouse, chose wisely – a pastor & his wife, a mentor, or another godly lady friend who can be discreet. Too often “venting” sessions become “husband bashing” sessions and this isn’t God-honoring or husband-honoring. This isn’t a good Christian witness to the world. And this doesn’t really benefit you or your spouse to speak ill of him behind his back.

      9. Rape, Abuse, Violence!
      These are all GOOD reasons to LEAVE AND GET HELP! No, I would not advise a woman to stay in a situation like this EVER! Any woman who is in a situation like this SHOULD SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. Yes, call the police. Yes, go to a crisis center or call a crisis hotline. Yes, go see a doctor or medical professional. Yes, bring in the help of the church. No, she should not suck it up at all costs and just take it. And this goes for verbal/mental abuse also. Women are not slaves to their husbands, and SHOULD NOT EVER HAVE TO TAKE ANY KIND OF ABUSE!

      10. Yes, we have control over our own bodies.
      Yes, a woman exercises the right over her body. She can tell her husband no and he NEEDS to respect that. I was speaking to more to marriages that go months & years without sex (for no particular reason or because they’ve “lost that lovin’ feeling”). These are issues that need to be worked through. Using sex or withholding sex as a means to control your husband, punish your husband, or just because you don’t want to make the time for him (and vice versa – husbands who do this to their wives) is wrong and unbiblical! That’s what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians. Love your spouse by giving of yourself freely to them, but if you must abstain from sex, or you want to for whatever reason, talk about it first, and agree on a time to come back and either discuss the subject again or to come back and try again.

      I hope I’ve answered all your points adequately. I never meant to imply that ALL WITHHOLDING OF SEX is disrespectful and I wasn’t very clear in my post so I apologize. I did address why withholding sex in certain situations is wrong and how to do so without disrespecting each other or hurting one another in this post: https://becominghiseve.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/reader-question-hungry-for-your-love-30-dates-in-november-day-13/

  2. Angela

    I loved this post! I read a similar one by Laura Doyle over at HuffPo and the responses from women were sad and more than a little frustrating. If we women could only understand the great power we wield in this area, we could have our sweet husbands eating from the palm of our hand!

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting. I wouldn’t say we can have our husbands eating out of our palms because the goal is to respect our spouses, not necessarily to wield power over them. But we can use our God given attributes to bless, serve, and pleasure them in a manner that is God-honoring and husband-honoring. If more women realized how important and affirming sexual intimacy is to their husband, and how much it offers both their spouse and themselves, I think we’d have very different marriage beds.

  3. I so agree with this. Respect is vastly important to a marriage. From and for both spouses. Thank you for sharing on NOBH!

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