When Abstinence Is Wrong

Like many in my generation, I love Seinfeld. One of my favorite episodes is "The Soup Nazi." For the poor souls unfamiliar with this episode, Seinfeld and his friends find a place that serves great soup. The catch at the restaurant was, if you didn’t play your cards just right, the chef would refuse service and yell, “No soup for you!”​

The premise applies to intimacy within many marriages. Too many couples silently shout “No sex for you!” for ungodly seasons in their marriage. The couples muddle through sex-deprived seasons for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, couples just drift apart. Sometimes, one of the spouses is inconsiderate and just doesn’t consider it a big deal. Sometimes, there are addictions involved, which rob intimacy and lead to self-fulfillment. Sometimes, unhealthy bedroom practices have crept in. Sometimes, conflict arises, and the withholding of intimacy is a weapon wielded out of spite. Regardless of the reason, extended periods without sex in a marriage is sinful barring some exceptional circumstance.​

Paul pressed this point in 1 Corinthians 7: “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”​

The lack of sex in marriage contributes to Satan’s success in some people’s lives. Said another way, sexual deprivation is sabotaging marriages. I have ministered to people with sexual struggles for years and this issue is at the heart of many conflicts. The lack of physical intimacy boosts fleshly desires and opens us up to temptation in significant ways.​

Much more could be said, but I want to offer some tips for husbands and wives on how to promote physical intimacy in marriage. These suggestions are stereotypical and, occasionally, the roles are reversed, but as a general rule, these remain true. These tips are not a cure-all, but serve as a starting place.​​

Husbands consider:

Wives consider:

Both of you consider:

A final word of encouragement and caution: these actions must be done out of love for Christ and love for one's spouse whether they result in sex or not. If these actions are implemented out of a desire to manipulate someone into doing what you want, bitterness and anger will tend to set in.​​​