Frequent denial of sex breaks the marriage covenant as much as adultery

Let’s start this post by quoting a passage from the Bible.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5:

Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

So with that in mind, I want to turn to a well-known Jewish talk show host named Dennis Prager, who is much loved and listened to by Christians. Dennis Prager features a lot of discussions about male-female relationships on his show, particularly during the male-female hour. In this two part series on male sexuality, he explains why women should not deprive their husbands of sex without a good reason.

Part 1 is here.


It is an axiom of contemporary marital life that if a wife is not in the mood, she need not have sex with her husband. Here are some arguments why a woman who loves her husband might want to rethink this axiom.

First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men’s natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman’s nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.

This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.

When first told this about men, women generally react in one or more of five ways…

He then explains the 5 ways that women respond to this.

Here’s one:

1. You have to be kidding. That certainly isn’t my way of knowing if he loves me. There have to be deeper ways than sex for me to show my husband that I love him.

I think that this is a common mistake that liberal women make because they think that men are just hairy women. But men are not women, we are different and sex means something different to men than it does to women. In the past, most women understood how men are different than women, but younger women have been taught that there are no differences between the sexes. To think any different is “sexism”.

Here’s another from the list:

4. You have it backwards. If he truly loved me, he wouldn’t expect sex when I’m not in the mood.

Again, this is the common mistake that many younger women today make in thinking that love is a one-way street – flowing from men and children to the woman. If men and children DON’T do what the woman wants, or if they make demands on her, then they don’t “love” her and she is justified in ignoring them.

Liberal women have been taught to believe that they are always victims or some group of oppressors, such as men and children or corporations. It makes them rebel against having to do anything for anyone else, because they don’t want to be “oppressed”. That makes them unable to accept that relationships are give-and-take, Once a commitment to love another person permanently has been made, then each person has responsibilities to provide for the needs of the other.

I actually had a conversation with a Christian woman once who said that women should not be obligated to do things that they didn’t feel like doing. I asked her if men were obligated to go to work when they didn’t feel like going. She said yes, and acted as though I were crazy for asking. I just laughed, because she didn’t even see the inconsistency. The truth is that men often don’t feel like working, but they get up and go to work anyway, whether they like it or not (in most cases). Similarly, a women should feel obligated to have sex with her husband, even if she is not in a perfect mood for it (in most cases). Sometimes, a man stays home from work, and it’s OK. And sometimes a woman says no to sex, and it’s OK. But it’s not OK to stop doing it for months and months with no good reason.

Part 2 is here.


Here are eight reasons for a woman not to allow not being in the mood for sex to determine whether she denies her husband sex.

He then explains the eight reasons.

Here’s one of them:

7. Many contemporary women have an almost exclusively romantic notion of sex: It should always be mutually desired and equally satisfying or one should not engage in it. Therefore, if a couple engages in sexual relations when he wants it and she does not, the act is “dehumanizing” and “mechanical.” Now, ideally, every time a husband and wife have sex, they would equally desire it and equally enjoy it. But, given the different sexual natures of men and women, this cannot always be the case. If it is romance a woman seeks — and she has every reason to seek it — it would help her to realize how much more romantic her husband and her marriage are likely to be if he is not regularly denied sex, even of the non-romantic variety.

Women have to engage their husbands if they expect their husbands to engage in the marriage as a husband and father. Men can’t do their protector, provider and spiritual leader roles forever unless their needs are met at some point. Performance of these male duties is not free. Wives have to love their husbands in the way that men expect to be loved. That’s what they vowed to do in the wedding, isn’t it?

At the end of the article, Prager makes a general point about women that I think needs to be emphasized over and over and over:

That solution is for a wife who loves her husband — if she doesn’t love him, mood is not the problem — to be guided by her mind, not her mood, in deciding whether to deny her husband sex.

This problem of sex-withholding is so widespread, that it really makes me (although I am a virgin) wonder what women think that marriage is about anyway. When a woman vows to love her husband, what do they think that word really means? Why do women think that men marry? What do men want that marriage provides for them? Which of those needs are the women’s responsibility to provide for? I think these are questions that men should ask women. I think women should be prepared to answer them. Men should expect that women be reading books on men and marriage, and that she has relationships with men where she is giving support, respect, affirmation, affection and approval. You can learn a lot about a woman by how she treats her father, for example.

Unfortunately, many men today haven’t thought through what they need from wives in a marriage. They spend their young years chasing women who are fun and sexually permissive. Every husband I asked about what they need has told me that respect, affirmation, affection and regular sex are more important than appearance and fun. Pre-marital sex, having fun, getting drunk, and going out, etc. are not the right foundation for marriage – which requires mutual self-sacrifice in order to work.

Another point: I have a friend who is very concerned that men are breaking sexual rules, but he seems oblivious to 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. I asked him privately what he thought about sex-withholding, and whether this might cause husbands to turn to pornography and even affairs, and I mentioned 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. He said: “no, it’s not something I take much interest in”. I was tempted to ask him if the Bible was something that he does not take much interest in.

I think he misreads 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 so that it could only be used to condemn men. If that were his view, then it actually worries me if well-meaning men are actually undermining marriage, by teaching women that they have no responsibilities to keep the marriage going, and helping them to feel like victims when their marriages fall apart. Sometimes even people who claim to be pro-marriage can undermine marriage practically-speaking, because of their unBiblical belief that women are “naturally good” and should not have any responsibilities in a marriage.

I thought this attitude was so interesting in view of what I read in the Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. In that book, Dr. Laura urges women to be sensitive to their husbands’ different male natures in order to avoid them looking at pornography and having affairs. Withholding sex from a man is the equivalent of a man withholding conversation to a woman. Sex is how a man feels loved! What’s remarkable is how female callers on her show are shocked that men react badly to being deprived of sex.

I do think that some men will look at porn and cheat regardless of what their wife does sexually, but then it again falls to the woman to choose a man who has demonstrated that he has self-control – i.e., a virgin who has remained chaste with her throughout the courtship and protected her from doing sexual things outside of the covenant context. Chastity is hard, but it is how a man loves his wife self-sacrificially, before he even meets her. It should be a trait much sought after and respected by women. Basically, women need to be led by their minds, not by their feelings, when choosing a husband.

A man has to get up and go to work every day for his family, regardless of whether he feels like it or not. In fact, the many decisions he has made before getting married are also made not because they make him happy, but because he needs to be responsible to his future wife and children. The decision to study science? Loving obligation. The decision to go to grad school in science? Loving obligation. The decision to work in a demanding, risky career? Loving obligation. The decision to save money and eat instant oatmeal for dinner? Loving obligation. Men don’t do these things because we enjoy them. We do it because we love our wives and children self-sacrificially, before we ever even meet them. I think that women need to do the same.

30 thoughts on “Frequent denial of sex breaks the marriage covenant as much as adultery”

  1. Sexuality and gender are unfortunately very misunderstood and mixed up in our society. This is an area of life where the Church has been too silent, and the topic is so personal that it creates a huge powder keg just waiting to explode.
    Thanks for your blog post here. I hope it sparks some good discussion and biblical thinking.
    If I may add a summary statement to what I think is one of your main points (from a sermon series on theology of sex my church has done):
    The way to a man’s heart is through his body.
    The way to a woman’s body is through her heart.
    (Of course, the above is to be taken within the context of a committed marriage).
    Thanks, and God bless!


    1. Men who withhold sex from their wives (a quite common problem) are also living in sin.

      Why would you think we would say any different?


      1. I didn’t have an opinion as to what you would say. I asked because I was curious. I will admit, though, that I have experienced double standards, especially as regards sex and gender roles, within the church, so in part I was curious to see whether those applied here.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So … what do you think a wife facing this situation should do? After all, a husband can insist that his wife roll over and submit. A woman doesn’t really have that option.


          1. Ummm … no … I’m female so maybe I’m missing something about how penises work, but to the best of my knowledge a woman can’t force a man to get an erection. And nagging at him with scripture verses is probably not going to elicit the desired response.


          2. A wife has every right to talk to her husband and tell him he has an obligation to have sex with her. She can’t force him to do what he ought to do (but then, a husband can’t rightfully force his wife to have sex with him either). All a spouse can do is appeal to the other to do right in this instance.

            If sex doesn’t happen, that’s difficult, but it doesn’t justify sinning by looking for sex elsewhere.


  2. Yes, sex withholding is every bit as bad and as much a violation of the marriage vows as adultery. It doesn’t excuse a man’s adultery if his wife withholds sex. He still has to stick to what he vowed. But a wife is certainly in the wrong to refuse to engage in sex with her husband. We need more Christians to stand up and say this.


  3. How many times can a person break their marriage vows before the marriage is void? At a certain point, one has to admit that they never intended to have a Christian marriage – in that case, an annulment should be automatic. No payday, no continuing alimony, just child support and the freedom move on.


    1. That’s just the thing. The vow is for better or for worse, for a lifetime. You vow to be bound to one another for life. The Bible gives permission to divorce when the other person abandons/divorces you and possibly for adultery. Otherwise, it’s for life, no matter how unChristian and sinful your spouse is being. It’s not a vow to hold up your end of the bargain as long as they hold up theirs. It’s a radical commitment to stick with it, even when they don’t do what they ought to do.

      Oh, and Jesus had something to say about how many times to forgive someone who wrongs you.

      That’s why you have to be so careful up front, before you make a lifelong vow.


      1. If it happens after 15 years, that’s one thing, if it happens almost immediately then it’s fraud, plain and simple.

        It’s enough evidence to conclude that the spouse never intended to create a marriage, therefore a marriage never existed. You aren’t responsible for vows taken under fraudulent conditions any more than under duress.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If you never have sex, the marriage isn’t consummated and isn’t a valid marriage. But if the marriage has been consummated, it’s a valid marriage and the marriage vows apply.

          As for fraud, the only way that applies is if someone misrepresents himself or herself in such a way that you thought they could make a marriage with you when they could not. So, for example, if a man “marries” a woman and then she finds out he is already married to someone else, they aren’t married. Or if she marries him and then finds out he is actually a woman – then they aren’t married. But when a man thought he was marrying a single woman and she does turn out to be a single woman after all, he is bound to his vows.

          It is the job of people preparing for marriage to determine whether their prospective spouse is actually as they are representing themselves to be. It’s important to test potential spouses to find out if they tell the truth, if they take the needs of others seriously, if they live up to their commitments, and if they deny themselves in order to do what is right. You have to do all that before you marry someone. You can’t just go on what they say. You have to know if they live it. Because once you make that vow, you’re stuck. God will hold you accountable to live up to your vows.


          1. “As for fraud, the only way that applies is if someone misrepresents himself or herself in such a way that you thought they could make a marriage with you when they could not.”

            “But when a man thought he was marrying a single woman and she does turn out to be a single woman after all, he is bound to his vows. ”

            My example qualifies. Being single and really a woman doesn’t absolve someone of fraud. Even the Catholics acknowledge that.

            “Canon Law 1098 A person contracts invalidly who enters into a marriage deceived by malice, perpetrated to obtain consent, concerning some quality of the other partner which by its very nature can gravely disturb the partnership of conjugal life.”

            Forced celibacy is also covered under the idea of “partial simulation”.

            A woman who refuses sexual rights because of trauma of her past or some other psychological problem – even those that are understandable – opens up the possibility of annulment. That’s called “Inability to Assume” and reads: “those who, because of a psychological nature, are unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage.”

            If the spouse turned out to be gay, mentally ill to the point of being unable to use reason, coerced, unbaptized, unwilling to have children, etc

            So even Catholics say it’s not just being the right sex and unwed – there are a lot of reasons that can invalidate a marriage.

            For a marriage to be valid, two people of opposite sex and sound mind have to fully intend to enter into marriage assuming all right and obligations therein – then they have to be able to prove their acceptance of those rights and obligations by their daily conduct in marriage. If they don’t, it’s considered evidence that they either did, in fact, not intend to follow through, or were unable due to mental trauma – in either case, the other party can seek annulment.


          2. What about abusers or rapists? Most don’t get caught so its unlikely they’ll be in the system also abusers and rapists are pretty good at creating an image of themselves that seems normal until they’re either caught or reveal themselves


  4. My wife of 29yrs. has refused intimacy/sex for the past at least 12-years for one reason or another. She has made repeated ‘promises’ to “work on it sometime” but nothing ever
    happens from one excuse/promise to another. I DO engage in talk with her about my wants and needs and she simply gets belligerent and loud and blames me for ruining her day or weekend by bring it up.

    I have tried to get some help and even pastoral views on my situation but I simply get referred to the biblical passages referred to in this article.


    1. “she simply gets belligerent and loud and blames me for ruining her day or weekend by bring it up.”

      So don’t back down. Stop doing anything for her, deny her the benefits of marriage – the same way she’s denying you. Start hiding assets because she’ll either repent or drive this to divorce.

      You need to treat this the same as any other grave sin. Would you enable her if she was a drug addict? Or abused your children? Or had multiple affairs? Of course not. People are conditioned by radical feminism that denying sex is normal – after all, “women never owe men sex” as feminists love to say – but it’s a sin equal to infidelity.

      What would her reaction be if you had an affair? Further, what if, when she confronted you, you started yelling and blaming her for ruining your weekend? Would she be patient and play nice to keep the marriage together? Of course not.

      The wife you knew is lost to radical feminism. There may be no way back for her – but enabling her continued sin isn’t the answer.


  5. The first verse of 1 Corinthians 7 is important, too:

    “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”

    (The word “touch” here refers to romantic or sexual touching.)

    Proper, godly, Christian men and women don’t touch each other, other than the occasional handshake or when necessary for health and safety, like a doctor operating on a patient.

    Our culture teaches the exact opposite and encourages all manner of touching between unmarried people. And our modern-day churches encourage all kind of cross-gender touching as well: “holy hugs”, questionable youth group activities, “turn and hug your neighbour next to you”, and so forth.

    “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”

    And the proper basis for marriage is revealed. “To avoid fornication.”


  6. What if I just flat out don’t like sex? Also, what about women who have had ongoing chemo due to breast cancer and the chemo has made it so painful to have sex?


    1. If you don’t like sex, you shouldn’t get married. If you did get married, you should work to please your spouse, even if you don’t particularly like sex. And you should try to find out if there is a physical problem that is preventing you from finding pleasure in sex and fix it, if possible.

      For people who are physically unable to have sex, that is certainly understandable and they should do their best to be intimate in other ways. If they cannot, then their spouse should be understanding and patient.


  7. I would say that certainly in the latter years of marriage (after she has decided they are done with children) deprivation of sex is the norm for married American men. They neither get satisfaction from their wives, nor are they permitted to seek it elsewhere, such as with a mistress or a professional. Most of the men just accept it and lead shortened lives of quiet desperation, ashamed of their own natural needs for physical intimacy. He, of course, is still completely on the hook to support her. It’s a marvel men still sign up for marriage. Take all this from someone who knows.


  8. From what I’ve understood Jesus said, “I hate divorce”.
    Paul, who was never married, was not in favor of marriage (not sure how he thought the human race would continue), but he
    felt if one HAD to be married, it was forever and one was “stuck” , with no way out as far as he was concerned.


    1. I wouldn’t say that Paul was opposed to marriage in principle. He simply had other priorities and thought that being single gave one a singular focus for sharing the gospel. It was certainly true in his case. He also gave advice to people not to marry if they could help it, but he also claimed this was due to “the present distress” (I Cor. 7) – no doubt persecution of the early church and the need for believers to travel far to evangelize the world. He didn’t seem to give the advice not to marry across the board. And even if he had, he clarified that it was his advice, not a command of the Lord.


  9. The main crime of adultry is the sexual act outside the marriage because it is assumed that sexual fulfillment is happening within the marriage. If a woman is unreasonsbly denying her husband she is offending her husband and sinning against God. This is one of Satan’s ace weapon to destabilize the home


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