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Standing with your spouse against sexual sin

July 24, 2007

Keyword here is “with”.  It is understandably difficult for married people to talk about sexual temptation without becoming adversarial.  The challenge is to remember that sin, and not your spouse, is the enemy.  Here’s an illustration that I hope will help.

I’m a bit frightened to share this with you, but I field tested it on my Sunday school class last week and they seemed to find it blogworthy.  So here it is:

As eating disorders are not really about food, so sexual addiction is not really about sex. 

Imagine that Will is a world class chef.  He makes a wonderful dinner for his wife Carol.  One hour later he catches her in the bathroom making herself vomit.  Would it be helpful if he were to say to her, “I feel rejected!  Didn’t you like my food?!”   Or perhaps he finds her eating a whole bag of peanut butter cups.   Shall he say to her, “I feel replaced!  Wasn’t my cooking enough for you?!  Why would you eat all that junk when I prepared for you a wonderful meal?”

I think we recognize that Carol’s struggle with bulimia is not about Will’s cooking.  In love, he needs to look to the Lord for refuge from his feelings of personal rejection and focus on how he can help her to be free. 

So I say to the wives of men struggling with lust:  I sincerely feel compassion for you and I understand that because of your personal history or the lies of our worldly culture, it may be very difficult for you not to feel rejected, or to blame yourself, or to beat yourself up when you discover your husband’s struggle with lust.  But it’s very important to grasp that it’s not your fault.  It’s not even about you anymore than Carol’s bulimia is about Will’s cooking.  Will is a not lousy cook.  You’re not a lousy wife.  Let us pray for our spouses and show them the grace and the forgiveness that heals.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Egana permalink
    July 25, 2007 8:01 am

    This is so true. But this truth hurts my flesh.

    In my self-absorbed mind (my flesh) I really do WANT my husband to be just as “me-focused” as I am. What sounds like true romantic love is to have a spouse completely wrapped up in me, devoted to me, focused on me. It’s what all those teen romance novels and movies are all about. Infatuation turns into idolatry, and its all for me me me!

    So when someone comes along and speaks the truth, that it is NOT about me, that my spouse might have idols other than me, it truly feels like being kicked when I am down.

    So here’s the big revelation. THANK GOD IT IS NOT ABOUT ME! Do I really want a husband using me as an idol to sin against our Father in Heaven? Can I handle the pressure of being God? Is that what will make us both truly, deliciously happy?

    Of course not. It’s just a lie, like every other shimmering mirage the flesh dangles before our eyes.

    So it is good for me to suffer this pain. I say it again, it has been and is GOOD FOR ME to suffer this trial alongside my husband. Because we can both repent of our sinful desires, come to the father, find forgiveness and healing for our souls, and love each other again.

    If I refuse to learn from God is this particular trial, then I am a fool. If I stand aside and point my accusing finger, I am acting like a hurt child who wants revenge. As one of the young ladies reminded me in Sunday School, my husband and I are one flesh. So the trial that God brings to sanctify my husband’s character is also to sanctify my own.

    His sin is not my sin, but his God is my God. And what he sovereignly ordains for the benefit of one, is for the benefit of the other as well, or else God is a liar.

  2. gorfchild permalink
    July 25, 2007 4:49 pm

    Mike, this is a great analogy.

    Egana, that was a wonderful post!

  3. July 28, 2007 2:29 am

    Curious to know how your comments work in light of 1 Corinthians 7:1-6 “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command.”

    There seems to be a definite connection here between sexual deprivation by one spouse towards another that we are warned against as a definite foothold to temptation. Let me be clear, I am NOT making it a cause and effect or denying the need to maintain self-control. It has been my experience; however, that routinely one of the first things to go south in a marriage is a violation of this insight – deny him/her and you will be putting your spouse into Satan’s hands.

    An example here may be helpful. If I tell you that you must maintain self-control at all times but yet I follow you around all day with a stick and poke you with it while mocking you. It would be safe to say that sometime soon you may very well get popped in the head. Your poking and slander does not negate my responsibility to control my anger, yet one would find it curious why someone who claims to love me is ‘pushing my buttons’ per se.

    In your analogy the bulimia and the cooking of the food are disjointed, but I think 1Cor 7 shows that there’s a hole in equivocating this to spousal relations.

  4. July 28, 2007 9:02 am

    1 Cor 7 asserts our marital duty one to another and, to be sure, withholding sex from one’s spouse to hurt them will certainly increase his or her vulnerability to temptation.

    But the point of the post is that the vast majority of sexual addiction has nothing at all to do with this dynamic. I’ve been a confidant to many in their struggles with lust and I think I can safely say I’ve never heard even one person blame it on their deprivation at home. On the contrary, most are genuinely baffled how they can be so satisfied at home and yet still so hooked on porn. This analogy is my answer.

    It’s possible that this world class chef could refuse to cook for his wife and then she would be tempted to stop by Taco Bell on the way home. But that’s not bulimia, that’s something totally different.

  5. July 28, 2007 10:08 am

    I wouldn’t say that 1 Cor 7 is addressing ‘sexual addiction’ but your post said ‘sexual sin’ which is much broader in scope. I have seen many examples of ‘home deprivation’, if you will, hence my query. This is seen mostly where the wife cuts off the man from sexual activity as a form of punishment. Following 1Cor 7’s warning then, when one investigates someone’s entrance into their ‘addictive’ sexual sin it will commonly follow that he’s been treated this way. Of course, not always is this the case -exposure to porn, particularly at an early age is a huge shaping influence as well. And again, this is not to BLAME the woman but it is to say that we do have an affect on one another as married couples.

    Good post though. Thanks for the clarification.

  6. July 28, 2007 12:05 pm

    “when one investigates someone’s entrance into their ‘addictive’ sexual sin it will commonly follow that he’s been treated this way. ”

    All I can say is that this is not what I have heard in my counseling of others. I would guess that this seldom explains someone’s “entrance” into sexual sin. More likely, a wife punishing her husband in this way is sin #617 is a string of 1,462 sins against one another.

  7. egana permalink
    July 28, 2007 4:39 pm

    “This is not to BLAME the woman but it is to say that we do have an affect on one another as married couples.”

    Well of course we have an effect on one another. The way I sin against him effects him, the way he sins against me effects me. The way he loves me effects me, the way I love him effects him.

    But if I can lay aside my wrath and the lies that I am tempted to believe, lay aside my own self-focus, I can continue to rejoice in Christ even in the middle of marital difficulties.

    Then I can be a wife desiring to bless her husband in a variety of ways, sensual and otherwise, because she loves God and loves her husband and can forgive him just as Christ has forgiven her, showing him grace and mercy and respect in obedience to the Lord in the strength the Spirit supplies.

    But it seems like you are saying I should be a wife who tries to keep her husband from lustful fantasies and practices by paying her dues in bed, or else I might have a negative effect on his ability to resist temptation.

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