A wife whose husband is sexually miserable can feel bombarded all the time. I never knew when my husband was going to want to have a conversation about how it wasn’t fair that I was in control of our sex life. He would give me articles. He would send me links to marriage blogs by women.

I would read these blogs as just one more person trying to convince me I was wrong. I know that there are wives who read this blog the same way. I’m not surprised. Who wants their husband to send them something that says, “See? I told you what you’re doing is wrong. And if you don’t believe me, here’s a woman saying it.” (Hint: Guys, please don’t do this.)

What I did know is that I wasn’t much happier than my husband. Mostly, I thought this was because he kept bugging me for sex—but I think I suspected that it was more than that. I didn’t feel completely whole.

One Flesh

For years, I had no clue what it meant in the Bible when I would read that a husband and wife were “one flesh.”

In Genesis, we see the phrase as part of the creation story. God removes one of Adam’s ribs and makes it into a woman. I thought it was a symbolic reference to being a marital unit, a couple. Or maybe it was symbolic of a husband and wife being part of each other’s lives. Or it was a way of trying to convince women that their identities were to be subsumed by their husbands, since it is preceded by Adam’s words about woman being taken out of man. Or it was a polite way of referring to sexual intercourse. This is what I thought most of the time, since the very next verse tells us that they were naked. And naked surely means “one flesh” was about sex, and sex alone.

In Ephesians 5, the reference to a husband and wife as one flesh has a different context. Here, marriage is compared to the mystery of Christ and the church. A mystery? Marriage certainly has its moments of confusion, but I never thought of it as a mystery. And to read that a man should nourish and cherish his wife because she is his own flesh? It was just too much for me to imagine what that even meant.

The passage that really gave me pause, though, is the one in Mark 10, where Jesus says that God has joined a husband and wife together. “What God has joined together”. . . what does that mean? I believed God had witnessed our wedding, but was there something more to His presence than that? I had a mental image of cords interwoven through my husband’s and my souls, binding us together, tied in a nice tidy bow by God.

Marriage is a sacred rite. I have frequently said that I made a promise to God and my husband at our wedding. I even said, “This is my solemn vow.”

But somehow, for quite a few years in our marriage, I conveniently ignored the fact that I had made a vow. Since I thought the only thing “one flesh” actually meant was sex, if I thought too much about my vows (or about what a vow even is), I would have started to feel guilty about the sex—and I wasn’t about to start having more sex simply because I felt guilty.

All the negative emotions in me—fear, distrust, stubbornness, and selfishness—worked together to keep me from dwelling much on one flesh and the idea of God having actually joined us together.

In Case of Emergency

As I’ve written before, I began my sexual transformation  for selfish reasons, an experiment to see if sex would actually shake my husband out of his depression. It was as if I had kept sex in my back pocket, a sort of “use only in case of emergency” tool for our marriage. Our marriage was tense. It was unhappy. We were two roommates who slept on opposite sides of the same bed. We were co-parents. We were financial partners. We were two people with a shared history. We had reached a point where things were critical, so I figured that counted as an emergency.

It turns out that God used that emergency tool to perform a miracle in our marriage.

At no point in the process did I think about being one flesh or about God having been part of our marrying. I wasn’t thinking much about our marriage as a relationship or a response to a vow, and I wasn’t thinking about sex as anything for me—just that it was something Big Guy had complained about for years and it would cost absolutely no money to provide. All I did was 1) have more sex, and 2) participate during sex. That was all. For very selfish reasons.

I thought I was just changing some behavior. Where that led is no less a miracle to me than water changing into wine.

  1. I changed my behavior.
  2. As I got more comfortable with the physical realities of having sex more frequently, I felt closer to my husband.
  3. As I felt closer to my husband, I stopped shoring up the walls I’d built against him in my heart.
  4. As I stopped shoring up the walls, they began to crumble.
  5. As they crumbled, I felt my heart reach out toward his.
  6. As my heart reached, and was reached in return, I felt like our hearts were more intertwined.
  7. As I felt the intertwining of our hearts, I wanted to experience that physically (through sex) as well as emotionally.
  8. As I wanted more of my husband sexually, I discovered that not being with him sexually deprived me emotionally.

As it turned out, sex was the instrument God used to perform a miracle in our marriage.

I didn’t know if at our wedding, God had actually joined us together—but as I watched this transformation unfold all around me, I certainly felt like His hand had done something amazing.

At some point, I realized that our marriage truly was a one-flesh relationship. Trying to figure out the passages in Genesis, Mark, and Ephesians had been academic in the past—but now, I KNEW what the Bible meant. We were no longer two. We were one.

Whole Again

The past week has been a challenge. I’ve spent much time in prayer trying to discern God’s will for me. I’ve started countless blog posts that I can’t make go anywhere. Today, when a member of my staff called me to tell me that her heart was sad, I realized how much I will be missing people I had come to love, people I saw on a daily basis.

As my heart has worked on figuring out how to put itself back together, I have craved connection with my husband more than I ever have before. He leaves for work in the morning, and I rejoice to see him at the end of the day. I am fragile and just a little broken, and I yearn to feel whole again. When my husband returns to me, I find that my heart settles. I am put back together.

And, oh, how I have been aching for sex—not because I need a physical release, but because the physical manifestation of our one-flesh relationship heals me.

When one flesh is separated, it yearns to be back with the other part of itself, to be made whole again.

Sex was my “use in case of emergency” tool to improve our marriage. God used that to completely transform our marriage into something that makes me feel whole.

Sisters, I know how much of a struggle it can be to be sexual in marriage. I had sexual baggage, kids, trust issues, a full-time job, responsibilities galore, and a husband who wouldn’t give me a break about sex. I was the one who was nourishing everyone else, and no one was feeding me. Sex was just one more thing to take out of me rather than put into me. (Okay, bad choices of words, but you know what I mean.)

Are you feeling broken or fragile in your marriage? Does your husband complain about your sex life? Do you want your marriage to be all it can be? Have you thought about whether your sex life is something you could really try to do differently?

To you, it might seem like it’s just sex–but God can use it to perform a miracle.

Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder. Amen.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 Thoughts on “This Profound Mystery

  1. Great post, thank you! Menopause is playing havoc with my libido just when I finally thought we’d worked it out after years of my “avoiding”! But I know that, in God, we will triumph.

    • Yeah, menopause is a blast, isn’t it? (Not.) When libido is an issue, it helps to make decisions about sexual activity based on things other than “when I feel like it.” This might be a time when scheduling helps, or simply a decision to say “yes” to your husband whenever he initiates–even if you aren’t “there” in terms of your own arousal and interest. I’ve had patches when I’ve reminded myself that even though I’m not interested in sex, I am interested in being held by my husband and helping him feel loved.

  2. As I was reading I thought you were digging down into my life. This is exactly where I’m at with my husband talking to me every morning about sex. It makes me sad that I don’t give him the love he deserves but I am selfish and always tired. Thank you so much for telling me I am not alone and that there is a miracle to this.

    • There is a miracle, indeed, although that doesn’t mean it’s okay to sit back and wait for it to happen. You need to be part of this miracle. What is it in life that makes you so tired? Have you read this post yet?

  3. ElovesC on January 9, 2014 at 9:49 am said:

    Very good post, Chris.
    All husbands, but especially those of us that are refused, should practice “that a man should nourish and cherish his wife because she is his own flesh” from Ephesians 5.

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