What’s the first thing you think of when it comes to sex? Pleasure? A good time?
More importantly, do you think of these things in terms of your pleasure, your good time?
The reality is that for many people, sex is a self-serving act. This is an extension of our culture that seeks to be served rather than to serve.
Against our culture of selfishness is the example of Jesus, who said he “came not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). The greatest person who has ever lived is the greatest servant.
When it comes to your marital sex life, are you best described as a servant or as selfish?
The biblical pattern for Christian marriage is free and frequent sex.
Unfortunately, many couples have a horrible sex life. It’s the belief of my wife and me that selfishness is at the root of most sexual problems in a marriage.
In our book “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together,” my wife, Grace, and I devote an entire chapter to the idea of selfish and servant lovers. It’s important to identify the ways we are selfish lovers and then work to eliminate them.
Here are a few ways we are selfish lovers.
Rarely have sex
We can simply decide to rarely, if ever, have sex. This is often done through repeatedly denying our spouse’s advances, which shames and humiliates them, causing them to feel unloved, unwanted, and undesired. Eventually they may stop seeking to be intimate with us.
Too little time, too little effort
We can do as little as possible sexually. By exerting minimal effort, passion, or interest, we discourage our spouses from seeking to be intimate with us. Men are microwaves. Women are crock pots. For both spouses to have pleasure, time and effort are required.
Only have sex when we both feel like it
Can you imagine if everything in your marriage was governed by this same thinking, so that, for example, you only ate together or spoke together when you both felt like it?
Servant lovers serve their spouse even when they are not in the mood, and know that on another occasion their servant lover will do the same for them. And, sometimes by serving out of love we get into the mood.
We rarely initiate
In a contentious marriage one spouse is always on sexual offense and the other on sexual defense. One person never initiates and is continually on the defensive. The other spouse is forced to always take the sexual initiative, which makes them feel controlled and manipulated in addition to neglected and unwanted.
Let ourselves go
We can become undesirable by failing to bathe ourselves, groom ourselves, or thoughtfully clothe ourselves. We have spoken to spouses who intentionally gain considerable weight, stop regularly showering, brushing their teeth, and cutting their nails because they were seeking to repel their spouses sexually.
We can conveniently get out of the habit of going to bed at the same time. Or at bedtime we can pick a fight or present a displeasing attitude that makes it unlikely sex will ensue. If this happens often, you can probably assume it is not a coincidence, but rather an intentional attempt to avoid sex.
Make our spouses earn sex
We can control and manipulate. If they do not do something we want, or do something we dislike, we punish them by withholding sex. This kind of sexual relationship is more akin to prostitution than marriage. In essence, our spouses have to earn sex and pay for it in some way.
Sharing our beds with children and pets
We can allow our children, and even our pets, into our beds. One couple we know had a very unimpressive sex life in large part because their enormous dog slept in their bed under the covers between them.
Kids, of course, sometimes have bad dreams and climb into their parents’ bed for comfort, but to regularly allow them equal access with your spouse is not healthful for the kids or the marriage.
Martial sexual assault
It is estimated that 10 to 14 percent of married women have been sexually assaulted, forced upon sexually in some way, by their husband.
This is a horrendously selfish evil, and the antithesis of marital love in which people give freely to one another.
Do you recognize yourself in the list above? If so, it’s time to make a change. Marriage either gets better or it gets bitter. Often selfishness is the cause of bitterness. Begin thinking today how you can move from being a selfish lover to a servant lover, seeking to please your spouse before you please yourself. If you both do this, you’ll have a better sex life — and so will your spouse.
More views on religion and sexuality
Panel debate: Can religion handle sex?