Why Your Marriage Needs Sex

Why Your Marriage Needs Sex


By Janel Breitenstein

When my four kids were little and life resembled a 24-hour paper towel commercial, I read a statistic in Parents magazine that something like 78% of new moms, when choosing between sex and sleep, chose sleep. Um. Duh. (And to the other 22%: Please divulge your secret.)

I needed a REM cycle so badly that I probably shouldn’t have been operating our Cheerio-infested minivan. As soon as my body got horizontal, wild horses couldn’t stop my eyes from closing, as long as said horses had clean pants.

Now that I have kids old enough to both bathe themselves and microwave a plate of nachos, it’s easier to prize and cultivate the gift of sex to my marriage. Like money or time, sex is a microcosm of any marriage. It was true when our kids were young, too, amplifying my burnout and my husband’s and my need to sacrifice for each other in a thin season.

But even then, our marriage needed sex.

I needed my husband to completely see and gently welcome my postpartum body, granting tenderness to all the overused, newly sagging parts.

I needed him to say in ways more than words, You are desirable to me even when you feel like you have nothing left to give. Let me focus on your needs and pleasure for this sliver of your day.

And personally, even when short people wanted something from me around the clock, I needed to open-handedly offer my last drop of energy to my husband and reiterate, Your needs and our connectedness still matter. We still take priority, floating here on this sea of apple juice.

What does your sex life tell you about your marriage?

Does your marriage need sex?

Maybe we need sex more than we think. Our souls are welded to our bodies. (Doubt it? Watch how hunger, rest, hormones, and health issues affect our interactions with others, and with God.) The God who associates Himself with feasts, rest, healing, and freedom also, particularly in Song of Solomon, affiliates Himself with sex.

Wonder why?

1. Sex restates, over and over, our connectedness in ways that cling to us.

Our married relationships furiously need the marital glue that is sex. We need that refrain of “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25), the mini-vacations to our private kingdom, the return to the lush, steamy garden of Song of Solomon. Sex restates our intimate unity.

And just like in marriage as a whole, when we’re not consistently turning toward each other, we’re turning away.

Sex is love and connection we choose to experience in our very bodies, a wash of intimacy in our minds and emotions. Paul sets a high bar for connection between any believers: “Have unity of mind” (1 Peter 3:8). And sex is a physiological refresh of our unified passion, devotion, and feeling for each other. So it’s more than about what our bodies participate in.

If sex is only checking off a box of “generously” meeting your spouse’s needs, that’s a problem. If you’re disengaged during sex, examine where that’s emerging from. Turning the tables, would you want your spouse’s heart distant or apathetic while you’re making love?  

Juli Slattery, president of Authentic Intimacy, asks whether we’re pursuing sexual intimacy together—becoming connected lovers (“naked and unashamed” with more than our bodies) who share a journey. Or is the bedroom just about sexual activity, focused on compatibility and frequency, physical attraction, and the immediate pleasure of having our own needs met?

2. Sexual rejection and injury hit hard—and leave us vulnerable.

Because God designed sex as holistically intimate (see 1 Corinthians 6:16-20), rejection of either spouse stings our sense of being wanted, desirable, or even worthy as a person at the most intimate level.

As one rebuffed wife reflected, “His list of ‘reasons’ [for not wanting sex] is endless. This leaves me feeling unloved, undesirable, and rejected.” (Check out “‘I want sex more than he does!’ 4 Tips for the Sexually Frustrated Woman.”)

And this rejection can propagate a vulnerability to fill the void, albeit illegitimately, through emotional or physical affairs, addictions (like workaholism), marital conflict, and porn.

Does this mean a spouse is responsible for the other’s infidelity or porn usage? Absolutely not. When sex becomes an obligation—particularly out of fear—that’s problematic. It causes pain for both of us.

But we do care about how we can nurture and receive a spouse as our “brother’s [or sister’s] keeper” (Genesis 4:9Galatians 6:1-2).

Author and podcast host Brian Goins explains there’s a “sense in which porn—which we’re not endorsing—is like McDonald’s. I’ll settle for counterfeit or cheap or bad nutrition because I’m just hungry. It tastes good for a little bit, and then afterwards, I feel a little sick. But I’m willing to eat that if that’s all that I have.”

In a healthy marriage, both spouses embrace sex that welcomes and pursues their whole selves—starting with the foreplay pillow talk all the way to the next morning’s pre-work flirtation.

But we also need sex for our healing. One in five women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime, almost half from an acquaintance, and statistics suggest one in six men have also been sexually abused or assaulted. At this holistic, intimate level, trauma and pervasive damage mar us. We need exceedingly safe, gentle, tender places that facilitate the long process of healing from the inside out. Places that rewrite brokenness and theft with a narrative of wholeness.


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