The Bad Plan of Duty

A woman shared that when she married her husband, she did not think she could EVER say no to sex.  For over 20 years, every single time he initiated, she went along with it. Her young husband had a strong drive and they often had sex once a day, or even twice a day. The first ten years of marriage, things were ok. They were young, had energy and were not too sleep deprived from raising kids. But as the pattern continued through the years, resentment began to build.

Every single time her husband initiated, she obliged. No matter how exhausted she was, she did not turn him down. Ten years later sex had become a dirty word and a huge point of conflict as her resentment built to anxiety. She read any physical touch from her husband as a prelude to intercourse and began avoiding all touch for fear of leading him on. The couple eventually ended up in counseling and are in the process of rebuilding their marriage and their sex life.

I asked her, “why didn’t you feel like you could say no to your husband once in a while?”

Her only explanation was that she grew up in a conservative church where she was taught that fulfilling her husband’s needs was her duty. She had also been taught that fulfilling his needs would prevent him from looking at porn or other women. Saying yes to sex was part of submitting to her husband, and she took her faith seriously.


This might seem like an extreme case but actually I don’t think it is all that unusual. Countless Christian books by both men and women perpetuate the lie that sex is a duty – a need of men fulfilled by women. Many books also insinuate that if the wife will just take care of her husband’s needs, he will not struggle with purity. That is a lie. Men can struggle even when their wife is giving them all the sex they want.

Who is responsible if they look at porn? The person that looks at porn.

Who is responsible if they allow themselves to look at other people? The person looking at other people.

No matter what, we are always responsible for our own actions – even men or women with a high sex drive.

Trust me, I am pro sex. In fact, I am very pro sex.

I think sex is super important to a marriage and I think we should have lots of it. Having sex binds us together in ways that nothing else can and if we are not having sex, we are opening our marriage up to danger.

But I don’t think it works to tell women to do it for their husband, and honestly, I don’t think that is what a husband wants.

One book written by a respected Christian author says, “Maybe it’s not convenient, it’s uncomfortable, it’s not on your timetable – but you do it anyway for the sake of love, not passion.”

That’s crazy.

I read that passage to the men’s class and they were shocked. They all agree, that is NOT what they want. They want a wife that is engaged and enjoys sex.

Most men have no idea what a battle their wife faces, because they have received very different messages. Most men would agree that from the time they were boys, they somehow new and understood that,

“Sex was going to be the BEST thing ever.”

They knew it, the believed it, they expected it, and it was.

If you look at the overall messages Christian girls receive about sex, two things are understood…

“Don’t do it, don’t do it. Don’t Do it!!!”

 before marriage.


“Do it for your husband.”

These messages are hammered into us from the time we are young girls.

We hear it, we believe it, we expect it, and it is.

So, while this wife was feeling force fed, her husband was thinking, “I don’t understand. This is the best thing ever. Why isn’t she enjoying it. Maybe if I just try a little harder.”

The Bad Plan of Duty Sex

Telling a wife, she has to have sex is kind of like telling your kids they have to go to church. You can drive them there and make sure they sit through the service. But can you make them worship God, or take God’s word to heart? You could threaten them and coerce them, but can you make them love God? And the more you try, the more resentful they become, and the more they dig in their heels.

Wouldn’t we rather help our kids own their faith, by showing them who God is and sharing what He means to us. We need to speak God’s truth and share testimonies of His healing and grace.  We need to help our kids understand how much God loves them and we need to pray for our kids. But ultimately, we need to let go and release our kids to God.

Just like you cannot make kids fall in love with God, you cannot make your wife love sex – and ultimately isn’t that what you want. Women need to hear that God created sex for them as much as their husband. They need to hear how sex strengthens marriage and creates intimacy. They need to be encouraged to seek help in order to heal from past experiences. Their husband needs to tenderly communicate what sex means to them – emotionally and spiritually. Women must have the right to say no sometimes or ask for a rain check without carrying the responsibility of their husband’s purity. Clear answers must be available to help women figure out how to make sex as enjoyable for them as it is for their husband. But ultimately, a husband must love his wife like Christ loves the church – no matter what.

Understanding Your Wife

So what does a husband do if their wife is not interested in sex? I’ve written a few articles on the subject in the past and I would encourage you to read them with a sense of compassion.   Lies Your Wife Battles, IF – the Game Changer, Do’s and Don’ts for a husband.  Because most wives are not trying to hurt their husband, in fact deep down many are riddled with guilt and feel broken. So don’t give up hope. Your wife needs you to be her biggest cheer leader.

Ladies, there are women in your church that need help understanding how important sex is to them and to their marriage. Would you pray about hosting an Awaken-Love video class and share a different message about sex?

Comments 14

  1. Thank you so much for this great post! I’ve written about this too, that it’s okay for wives to say “not now.” In fact, it’s healthy and godly for you both to feel that your needs and desires matter in the marriage bed.

  2. As a man I wish I would have heard about the struggles women have with sex. My wife and I did everything “but” have intercourse when we got married. That was wrong I really regret it now. 1. Because we were sinning and that is the major reason but 2. Because it created expectations that never got met the way I thought. My wife was the one that initiated everything. I am not saying I wasn’t responsible, I was. It takes two to tango but one is always leading and in our case it started with my wife because she had been in a sexual relationship before. So getting married I had a lot of expectations but after we got married all that passion faded. And not like in a year but in some months. Apparently i wasn’t romantic any more and I’m not saying i was romantic all the time but I can assure I wasn’t very romantic before we got married either. So with all those expectations it’s hard to not feel disappointed. But even more than I wish that people would have told me about the struggle women have I wish someone would have told me that sex isn’t such a big deal. I have started to realize that one of the biggest goals in my life has been having sex. Before I met my wife I had really fought a lot to live pure because I wanted to wait with sex. And in some ways that was one of my main goals as a man. It sounds weird but for me it was 1.Living for Jesus(I failed big time) 2. Marry someone you are going to love like Christ loves the church and have sweet sex. Maybe it’s just me but sex has always been such an important thing in my life. I have always been thinking about sex and its like it’s super important. I have always been thinking about it. Between 30-70% of my days consist in thinking about sex. I have asked God to take my high sex drive away. At the same time I’m afraid. I’m afraid life will be boring without the ability to get aroused: I know it sounds weird but that’s how important sex has become. I just wish I could have learned that sex isn’t that important. That it’s not the whole world if you don’t have sex. I would have chosen not to get married and dedicated my whole life to God. Instead we are fed the lies that sex is important and that if you have desires it’s better that you get married. And then you realize that it all was lies. Sex doesn’t matter and the desires you have will be worse. If you suffered because of your desires before marriage it will be worse in marriage because you will have it so close but still so far away. And if you let your eyes and thoughts wander you will sin against God and your wife. And the guilt is double. More people should preach about living a life in celibacy for God and serving without the distraction of marriage.

    I envy the men that are asexual. I wish we could be like some animals that only have sex once a year to procreate. How wonderful that would be. We humans could then focus on other forms of intimacy. Because it’s clear that sex only brings more problems than solutions. Marriage bloggers say that sex matters but let’s be honest. What matters are the other forms of intimacy. If they don’t work sex won’t work so whats the purpose with sex? If sex doesn’t get you closer without all the other forms of intimacy then why have it? It doesn’t add anything. There are many things I would like to ask God but the question of “Why sex?” Is one of my biggest questions. Why sex? Why this hell of desires that can’t be met? Complications? Why? Why?! Why a sex drive? It doesn’t serve any purpose? Having children? Couldn’t a handshake have been enough? I cant blame God but it’s a great mystery for me: This world and all marriages would be a better place without a sex drive.

    • mm

      Dear Anonymous,
      You sound angry, bitter and hurt. Sorry that your reality has not met your expectations. There is nothing easy about marriage or sex. Like Gary Thomas says in Sacred Marriage, maybe God created marriage to make you Holy not Happy. I believe God makes us more dependent on Him and Christ like when we surrender our own desires and ask, how can I love my spouse better – even when they are not loving me well. You are absolutely right that marriage is about a lot more than sex and we need to learn how to connect intimately in all kinds of ways.
      As for your sex drive, I would do what you can to naturally channel your energy towards other constructive things and starve your eyes of things you should not be looking at and your mind from things you should not be dwelling on. Your drive does not have to control your life.

      • Hi!
        I first of all I want to say I’m sorry for sounding so bitter and hurt and for questioning God. I was in a really bad place when I wrote this. That was a good quote. Maybe my aim shouldn’t be happiness but holiness. i have realized I have been selfish just thinking about me. Even if it’s going to be hard I have to think about my spouse. It’s harder than it sounds though. But I guess I have to learn. I just have a hard time to feel this “love feelings” when I do things. I just feel bitter but I have to pray that God will change that. When it comes to my sex drive i guess I jut have to live with it. I wish there was a way to calm my sex drive. I have heard that some anti-depressives can help but I am not depressed. It’s hard to channel this because it is constantly in my mind.
        Thank you for answering. God bless you!

        • mm

          Praying that God gives you guidance and answers in how to love your wife. I am also praying that God gives you compassion for your wife and opportunities to speak truth into her life about sex.

        • You are not alone. I second all of your desires to have my sex drive taken away. As a husband I pray for this as well.

    • Hi Anonymous. I know I’m a little late to the party here, but I feel like I could relate to your pain at one point, and I think I should respond.

      My wife, and I have been married for almost 9 years (in June), and we struggled with sex for a long time. We weren’t together as often as I would’ve liked, and when we were I felt as though it was out of obligation. Loving someone so much made the distance that much more painful. I read blogs, I looked up articles describing how I could be better in bed, I tried everything I could think of to get an answer to why my wife wouldn’t passionately love me.

      I was missing the point.

      God put me and my wife, and you and yours together piece by piece; just as he wanted. He knows everything about us, including the fears we have and the ways we medicate them. I think God was, and still is, teaching me to be a servant lover reliant on Christ more than a grasping lover reliant on my wife’s responses to me. The real changes started happening in our marriage once I realized this and started consistently living it out.

      For me, it wasn’t that what I was doing was wrong, it was my end goal that was wrong. The goal was great sex, but it should’ve have been making my Father proud by learning to love a woman like a true man of God.

      It was about wooing my wife toward me with no expectation or pressure of sex.

      It was about praying consistently for God to work in her heart, my heart, and in our sex life (I was honest to God here about my desires, but prayed for God’s will, not necessarily my own).

      And then it was about leaving my wife to God (he knows her better anyway), and focusing on loving her the way he calls me to regardless of her response to it.

      I will say this; it sucked. It was, and oftentimes still is, very hard. But we are seeing the fruits of the hard work in our marriage now, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Here’s a ‘call to battle’ verse I use when fighting for my wife’s heart gets tough. I hope it helps.

      “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

      I’ll say a prayer for you and your wife after I post this. Hang in there.

  3. To live in a marriage where sex is just for obligation sucks. I hate to say this but for me it is like chasing the carrot.

    My wife thinks in order for intimate sexuality I need to be the man of God that her current Bible study, church or speaker defines. As I morphed towards that, our sexuality did not. This is a formulas for perpetual frustration and disappointment.

    Ladies I do not know the answer to get my wife to be in the mood like she was when we were dating. I read the books, I read the blogs, I pray, I fast, I write love letters, I listen to the sermons and watch the videos.

    After 20+ years of this I can tell you this: men fight everyday to have pure thoughts. Thoughts only for their wife. When we are refused or given sex that is like this- advice given in an English film I once saw, ” just close your eyes and think of the queen”

    Men when refused will: fight hard for a lonnnnnnng time to remain “pure” but they will ultimately look at porn, build resentment, fanatsize about other women all the while longing for connection and good sex.

    I am one of the most godly men you will ever meet and I honestly do not know what I would do if a women went beyond flirting and touched me. I am not a scumbag I am being honest and I am not alone.

    Today women and wives are outgunned. If your husband is refused or given only ‘get it done sex’, know this, he knows a woman that he can or does edge towards or does flirt with. Most likely several. He has the ability within 15 seconds to be on a porn site and you will never know it. The statements of ‘you will always be caught’- are now fighting survival and are most likely extinct.

    I obviously do not know the answer. But I do know my result and I still chase the wind for complete Christian fulfillment in my marriage. And I fall everyday.

    Is it my fault I look at porn? My responsibility yes. Does a bad sexual relationship in my marriage create an environment where that door is easier to open? Yes.

    If a husband told his wife everytime she longed to connect and have conversation that he was: tired, worried about…, Wasn’t in the mood to talk, didn’t feel like it, I am just hormonal and can’t get in the mood, it is just the way I am, just the way God made me, I need to be up early, I didn’t sleep last night, I have a headache, my stomach is upset, the kids might hear, I will need to take a shower afterwards, I will talk just enough so you are fulfilled, in the middle of a conversation I turn to her and say: just finish. say I used to be able to talk but I was much younger then. I’m sorry I couldn’t talk last night… And this happened night after night and year after year.

    How long do you think that marriage would last? What would happen if a wife was refused that connection? How long before another man honed in on that and offered to talk with her when she needed it? Would it be her choice to build a deep connection with another man that led to a relationship? Yes, her choice.

    • mm

      Reality Today,
      I am sorry for the 20 years of struggle and I don’t have all the answers either.
      I do know that watching porn will never truly satisfy you and will only leave you more confused, ashamed, frustrated and ultimately disappointed. I know it is a battle but I implore you to find some help with the porn – not just for your wife – but for you.
      I also cannot imagine how lonely it must feel to have a spouse that is not connecting with you physically. I do not have all the answers and I would never presume to give you advice, but I think part of our role as husband and wife is to speak truth to each other in love. I don’t think in marriage we are supposed to just put up with whatever happens indefinitely. Sometimes loving our spouse is setting boundaries and saying “this is not who God created you to be.” Be a man of integrity and honor, be truthful with yourself. Encourage your wife to do the hard work of figuring out what God wants for her sex life and to get help if she needs to. Trust me, there is a reason your wife feels the way she feels about sex.
      I am praying that you will discern with God what your next steps might be and that you will act out of a place of humbleness, compassion and love.

      • Thank you for the response.

        I have given up.

        I hate to sound so negative. Please know that this is truthful. My wife is a wonderful mom and really a great woman. Aside from the sex issue I can only say positive things about my wife.

        But I cannot shut off my desire, for not sex, but intimate bonding through sexual connection. That is a communion that I would hope would connect a couple and make them unified through the gift God, I believe created it to be.

        Like ‘anonymous’ above I do wish I had no sex drive. I have tried to bury mine with deep study of Christianity​, deep study and application deep Christian application, continued discussions with my wife. My study has progressed from simple and basic Christian application to the very deepest study anyone could possibly do.

        I know she is tired and works diligently to make our home a spectacular home for our children.

        I get that pornography presents a very unreal sexuality. I am at least discerning enough to recognize how stupid much of it is. For those struggling with porn, it is much worse than before. The violence and treatment of women has degressed to a horrible place.

        In honesty I look for pornography that shows the way our sex life used to be. Nothing perverse, nothing involving other people and nothing that would be abusive.

        Do I like this? My God it is depressing and sad. Of course I long for a marriage where my fullfilment would be from m the marital bed but that bed is gone. I have accepted this as fact, it is easier that way.

        I am a shell filled with memories of a woman that was once passionate for me and no longer is. Do I love porn? No I detest it. But it does at least give me a release so that I am not pawing and perpetually angry at my wife.

        The nights like tonight when I hope for connection are filled with loneliness and sadness.

        My reason for writing is part for help, part for sympathy and mostly to let others know the damage and long term affects of what will- not what can- what will happen if the marriage bed withers.

        Please continue to fight for wives to find freedom. And value of how critical this is to their marriage and future generations. Your kids do see how you interact.

        Wives, it is sex. It should be love making. It should be a time of communion in your marriage. If it is not good, take the lead and talk your husband through it while sex is happening. Look him in the eyes and tell him you love and long for him. Tell him that he fulfills you. I may be wrong but shouldn’t a women have a hunger for sex?

        Tonight it has been a week since my wife gave me a non connecting sexual release. While this is relieving, it hurts. Imagine of you longed for an evening of connecting and your husband said: “I don’t enjoy talking but will talk to let you feel connected.” Then offered a bare minimum of participation during that conversation.

        I will again look at pornography. I am not ashamed. It takes away the pressure on my wife and frees me of nights of twisting and turning. I can know that while my wife is not interested in sex I can at least know I will find a release without bothering her through pornography.

        As for discerning next steps. I will of course continues to pray. But my hope is lost. I have given up. Better to simply accept this as my life and adjust to not make my wife feel miserable as well.

        Wives- please love your husband’s the way you did when you were dating. Don’t stop. Don’t let your marriage become ours. I have resisted sex outside of marriage. For others this will not be the case if it goes this far. Fix it now rather than later. Love your husband in every way. Fulfill, honor and respect him in the bedroom and outside of it.

        Your demonstration of this will be witnessed by your children and will be repeated for generations to come.

        Pray for us- please.

        • mm

          Reality Today,
          Again, I am sorry for all that you are going thru and I will admit I have no ideas what it feels like to have the drive of a man. You say that your write for 3 reasons, sympathy, to help others and for help. You may not like my advice, but what have you got to lose? You send a lot of very conflicted messages, so I am just going to lay it out there….
          God is capable of changing lives – your wife’s and yours – but he is not going to force you. He is much more interested in your heart than anything else. Think about what Jesus thought about the Pharisees versus the woman that wept at His feet. God hates lust, pornography and pride. You say you don’t just want sex but you want connection thru sex or intimacy. Pornography is not satisfying your need for connection, it is only making you unhappy.
          Here are some radical ideas….
          Give up porn. I mean totally. Find a group of Christian men that can help and you can be real with.
          Stand up and be truthful with your wife. Take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. Give your wife permission to get help and support because she is going to feel hurt and betrayed. Communicate that you are willing to do the hard work to rebuild trust with her.
          Starve your sex drive by guarding your eyes, ears, and mind. Focus your energy on healthy outlets, physical activities, deepening relationships and serving others.
          During your once a week duty sex with your wife, focus on what you say you want – intimately connecting with her. That means putting aside all your preconceived ideas of what sex looks like and seeing what you can discover about your wife. Use your words to gently affirm her, ask for ideas, connect eye to eye, feel her body and serve her. You might even completely serve her sometimes.
          Pray out loud over your connection and over her from your heart asking that God would show up. Once you are free of the porn, you could pray with your wife about whether taking things into your hands with only her in your mind, will help you be loving. You do not need porn to relieve tension.
          Do not give up on your wife, on yourself – but especially on God. I have seen Him show up over and over, when pride has been stripped away and all that is left is a circumcised heart.
          Father God,
          I am praying for break thru – huge break thru. Where there is any darkness, bring it to the light. Where there is any hardness, soften it. Where there is deception bring truth. If someone is asleep, wake them up.
          Thank you that you are a God that transforms. Thank you that you can heal and redeem and you can make us new.
          In Jesus Name, Amen

  4. I am a wife whose husband shows no interest in sex. In 40 years I’ve never once once refused or just “endured” sex because not only was it a way for me to show my husband my love, but also because it made me feel loved. However, he has a very low sex drive, which is hard for a wife who has heard all of her life about the type of situations in which wives are tired of their husbands always wanting sex. It’s hard to feel even slightly attractive when he hasn’t iniated in decades, and there’s been no sex for 15 years. Now he has ED and no interest in doing anything about it. I feel for you husbands whose wives aren’t interested, but I wish that there was also more help for wives who are in almost the same boat…the main difference being that the unmet needs and desires of willing wives is rarely recognized or discussed. It’s very hard not to feel like the biggest loser in the world.

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