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What Does the Bible Say About...Withholding Sex From a Spouse?

We know the only way God approves of divorce is adultery... What about when your spouse will not sleep with you. No sexual acts for 3 months or more and before the shut off it was slowly cut off... Only married 1 year... What about the fact that he does not show any kind of love... Is this reason to divorce..? I have talked to him and prayed and I have been patient. He tells me I have to love God more then I do him and he has to show me that. Does God want me to stay with him and live like this?


I have answered the exact opposite of this question at withhold.html. There the questioner asked, essentially, "do I have to?" Your question is the opposite: "Do I have to not?" The answers are essentially the same.

As usual I should start by recommending you talk to a marriage counselor, preferably a Christian one or a preacher who is a qualified counselor. I am not one. All I can give you is what the scriptures say, and this practical advice to see someone about the situation. It might also be good to talk to a doctor, preferably his. There may be some physical problem that he is unwilling to talk about.

Jesus said the only reason for divorce was "fornications," whatever that means (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12). This would specifically not include failure to have sex. My own view, based on no scripture, is that one may separate from a spouse where abuse or danger exists when one stays. But while this may involve a legal divorce, it would not be a scriptural one, and the spouses would commit adultery if they were to marry some one else and have sex with them.

In 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 Paul advises, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." Essentially this says that neither partner in a marriage has a right to deny sex with the other, except if they both make a mutual agreement to abstain for a specified period of time for prayer and fasting. This means a short time, because it is not likely one would or could reasonably continue a real fast for long periods. If he is eating meals then Paul says he should not deny you. One would be tempted to say "deny any reasonable request for sex," but Paul doesn't even put that limitation.

I am not clear whether you are saying that he denies you this right in order to teach you that you must love God more than you do him. If that is so, he is going about it the wrong way. Very soon it will be easy for you to love God more than him because your love for him may be so little. Besides that, how can he ask you to love God more than you do him if he does not show a love of God by showing love to his own wife? God has commanded him to love his wife (Ephesians 5:25), and, as Paul said, part of that love is not denying her those things which are a right as part of the marriage.

Please see a qualified counselor, and try to get him to join you. It would not be right to see a marriage fall apart if it can be kept together just by following the scriptures.