I read a very interesting article today (at the time of this writing) about withholding sex in a marriage.  The article discussed the problems and consequences of a sexless marriage. I’ve read many articles over the years about a sexless marriage and have even experienced it myself. I had read many times where people said that the solution to a sexless marriage, or rather, a spouse who withholds sex, is to divorce him or her.  I always thought that was extreme and that there must be a better way. However, the article that I read today presented that same solution and gave the reasons why.

The article claimed that the solution for a sexless marriage is divorce.  However, the Bible reveals to us that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and divorce was never in his plan for marriage (Matthew 19:8).  If we exclude divorce as a valid solution, then what would a marriage become if the wife consistently withheld sex from her husband or the husband consistently withheld sex from his wife?

The Importance of Sex in Marriage

Sex is very important in marriage to the husband and to the wife. Many people think that men need sex and women need affection to maintain a healthy marriage. The truth is that both men and women need sex and affection.  However, sex carries a different message to men and women. As a man, I can say that sex is how we perceive love, being desired and wanted, and intimacy from our wives. Men tend to use sex as a means of expressing emotional intimacy and closeness.  However, it is said that women need to be emotionally connected to their husbands before they want sex. In any case, it appears that sex is important in marriage to the husband and wife as a means of emotional connection.

A marriage can quickly become stale and merely functional without the emotional connection provided by sex. The husband and wife become roommates instead of soul mates. sex is very important in a marriage and without it, bad things will start to happen to it leading up to infidelity and/or divorce.

The Effects of Withholding Sex

There have been many times where my wife was not interested in sex, and sometimes for good reasons.  There were many times when I just felt rejected, unwanted, and left out to dry when she rejected my sexual advances.  The interesting thing during those times was that the effect of not having sex when I wanted it and needed it was devastating.  I had no idea that not having sex with my wife would cause so much distress.

A man who is denied sex by his wife may find that he becomes attracted to other women lustfully. I can only imagine that a man who goes a long time without having sex with his wife would be fighting temptations constantly.  This would be the time that Satan would introduce a woman that would provide what he is not getting from his wife.  I recall a minister referring to sexual relations in marriage as fighting demons.  Constantly resisting the devil’s temptation can wear a person down to the point he (or she) submits to that temptation instead of to God.

A man will feel undesired by his wife if she consistently withholds sex and vice versa.  He will feel like he doesn’t measure up and sometimes like he is less than a man.  This could lead to depression, ill feelings about himself, anger, resentment, and finally distancing himself from his wife.  The wife would have the same type of feelings if her husband consistently rejects her sexually. She would feel like she’s too fat, too skinny, not attractive, etc.  These are devastating to a marriage, and many husbands and wives simply don’t realize how serious it is.  They could go on for years denying their spouse sexual relations until one day their spouse has enough and seeks to end the marriage.

Sexual Immorality

Jesus said that we should not divorce except for sexual immorality (See Matthew 19:9).  But what is sexual immorality?  It is commonly thought that sexual immorality is infidelity or adultery in a marriage.  The only grounds for divorce was sexual immorality or becoming unequally yoked with a non-Christian (See 1 Corinthians 7:10-13 – if the unbeliever decides to call it quits).  Again, I started to think about this for a moment.  Sexual immorality. What would be sexually immoral in a marriage?  Surely, we would agree that having sex with someone besides your spouse is sexually immoral. However, sexual immorality in some cases, or perhaps many cases, happens long before the act of adultery, porn addiction, separation, etc.  Sometimes sexual immorality is indeed withholding sex from your spouse.

When two people are married, they promise to love and cherish and to be loyal to each other.  They also promise to meet each other’s needs.  However, withholding sex from your spouse is a direct violation of the vows you made on your wedding day.  The sexually immoral act of withholding sex from your spouse precedes the sexual immoral act of adultery. The intimate bond between a husband and wife erodes if sex is absent in the relationship.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us about withholding sex (1 Corinthians 7:1-7).  We should not deprive each other of what is proper in a marriage.  Otherwise, Satan will tempt us, and because of a lack of self-control, we could enter the realm of sin, i.e., adultery.  With these, I submit to you that a husband or wife who withholds sex from their spouse is not only sinning but provides a stumbling block for their spouse to sin. Withholding sex from your spouse is the same as opening a door (vulnerability) for Satan to tempt your spouse to sin.

 Withholding sex from your spouse is a form of sexual immorality

The Consequences

There are severe consequences to the sexually immoral act of withholding sex from your spouse. Here is a list of some things that could result if sex is refused.

  1. Emotional pain
  2. Resentment
  3. Pulling away from their spouse
  4. Deterioration of the emotional connection between husband and wife
  5. Anger
  6. Depression
  7. Loss of love
  8. Relationship degenerates into roommates
  9. Separation
  10. Divorce

Overall, the marriage begins to corrode when sex is withheld. How can there be togetherness if the emotional connection erodes? In some cases, the marriage may never be restored, resulting in separation or divorce. Unfortunately, there are many couples who remain together but are emotionally disconnected. One or both live in misery as they function but aren’t together.

The  Solution

What should you do if you withhold sex from your spouse or your spouse withholds sex from you? The solutions I propose are things you can work on to attempt to make things better. We hope that the offending spouse would become enlightened and realize the impact of withholding sex on their spouse and work to make things better. That, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen.

The spouse withholding sex should stop doing it. Yes.  There will be times when you are not in the mood or just too tired for sex, and you withhold it.  However, that should not be the norm for your relationship. If the normal response to your spouse’s sexual advances is to reject them in one way or another, then you are introducing a devasting evil into the marriage. If you find that you are rarely, if ever, in the mood for sex or don’t want to have sex with your spouse for other reasons, then talk to them about it. Don’t let your spouse develop the notion that you don’t want him or her.

If you are the spouse that wants sex but is refused repeatedly, then talk to your spouse about it. Perhaps there are some issues that hinder his or her desire for sex.  Perhaps she is responding to your behavior over time. Don’t let it go, but rather deal with the problem of withholding sex in your marriage. It will help to establish a happy marriage, and it will help to protect the marriage from infidelity and divorce.

Free Ebook: What Happens to Love In Marriage

Get your free copy of "What Happens to Love in Marriage?" Learn the path that love takes in a marriage and how you can nurture it to produce the loving, happy, and fulfilling marriage that you desire to have.

What Happens to Love in Marriage Opt-in