The following blog post is taken from my notes on Dave Teixeira’s excellent teaching Sex In The Light.
Covenant Sex vs. Consumer Sex
All marriage relationships fall into two categories: a covenant marriage relationship, or a consumer marriage relationship.
The the goal of the former is to keep the covenant we make to each other before God, to maintain the vows we committed ourselves to. Those of us married couples who participate in a covenant relationship are striving to live out God’s vision for marriage. We’re elevating and prioritizing God’s vision for marriage above our own desires. God’s vision for marriage is this, “The we (Christ, the husband, and the wife) is more important than the me.” We’re committed to Him and to each other.
But the consumer relationship is transactional. I give you something, and you give me something in return. Consumer relationships are everywhere (and they’re not necessarily bad). We have a consumer relationship with our cell phone company for instance. So if I give money to Sprint, in return, Sprint provides me with cell service and a data plan. But if I notice Verizon has something better to offer, I’m through with Sprint. I’m outta there, because I feel that if Sprint can’t give me what Verizon can, why should I stay? When we’re talking about consumer goods and services, that’s a great approach. But a consumer approach to marriage is destructive. For example, it might seem like it makes sense to try out a relationship first before marriage to see if we like it. After all, you’d test drive a car before you bought it, wouldn’t you? But that’s a consumer relationship. And it turns out that those who live together before marrying are more likely to divorce than those who wait. When you live together you establish consumerism as the foundation of your relationship. That’s a difficult trend to reverse.
And sex, sex inside a consumer relationship is just another consumer product, or service.
God’s Vision For Sex And Marriage
We gain insight into God’s vision for marriage from Ephesians 5:21-33. We’re to submit ourselves to one another. “The we is more important than the me.” And part of what that looks like is found in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5. The wife’s body is not her own but it belongs to her husband. She’s to submit her body to him. And the husband’s body is not his own, it belongs to his wife. He’s to submit his body to her.
And here’s where we come to how many times a week a husband and wife who are Christ followers should have sex.
Nearly always one person will desire sex more frequently than their spouse. If you haven’t experienced that already, it’s almost a certainty that at some point in your marriage you will. So how is a Christ follower to respond to that situation? Here’s what I believe is God’s vision for the frequency of sex inside of marriage: The one who desires sex more frequently has to submit to the one who desires sex less frequently. And, the one who desires sex less frequently has to submit to the one who desires sex more frequently. That looks different for every couple but let me say this, God’s vision is for both the man and the woman to submit to each other. If one is trying to live out God’s vision for marriage, if one is striving for a covenant relationship, but the other’s approach is consumerism, things can get pretty ugly for the one who’s trying to live out God’s vision. So it takes both to make a marriage relationship that’s God’s best. It takes both to make the sex life God has in mind for His idea of sex inside His marriage covenant.
Yes, But How?
Pastor Dave gave a great analogy when he talked about how each spouse is to submit to the other’s desired frequency. He said to the congregation,
“Raise your hand if you could go home right now, change into your running gear, and then go out and complete a marathon.” Only a very few raised their hands.
Then he said, “Raise your hand if you think you could complete a marathon right now if you tried really, really, really hard.” About the same number of hands were raised.
Then he said, “Raise your hand if you know, that if you could devote time and energy to train for it, you could then complete a marathon.” And most of the congregation raised their hands.
The point is, whether submitting to your spouse means having sex more frequently or having sex less frequently, “genuine transformation usually involves training, not just trying. Let me define training for you. Training: I arrange my life around those activities through which I gain the power to do what I cannot now do by direct effort.” Submitting to each other sexually requires an intentional purposeful approach. It involves training. It involves repetition. Over time you become better at it, whichever direction the needle moves on the sex frequency gauge.
What About Our Later Years
Speaking of sex, God says in Proverbs chapter 5
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19)
So we see here how God’s vision for sex doesn’t change during our later years. Because Proverbs 5:18-19 admonishes us to rejoice in the wife of our youth, the wife from the time when we were young, which means He’s addressing us during a time when we’re not young–which means he’s writing to us when we’re old.
God’s desire for our physical relationship remains the same in our later years: submit to one another. We’re not to neglect this part of our relationship. We’re to rejoice in the spouse (if you will) of our youth. One reason He desires this is because sex is the sacrament of marriage. It’s the physical sign that you have given yourself completely to your spouse. It means you’ve given yourself physically, emotionally, legally, financially, intellectually, and spiritually. Sex is sacramental.
Teixeira during his sermon shared this quote (I think it’s from Tim Keller).
Sex in marriage becomes a covenant renewal ceremony. It becomes a commitment apparatus. When you have sex you’re getting married all over again. I’m giving you my body as a token of how I’ve given you my entire life. I’m opening to you physically as a symbol of the fact that I’ve opened to you in every other way. In this context sex becomes a deepening thing, a nurturing thing. It’s like covenant cement. It’s like covenant glue. It’s a covenant renewal ceremony.
Sex isn’t always easy. We go through physiological changes, and changes in energy level, and challenges to our health. It can be difficult, but God says have sex anyway. It’s an important part of his design for marriage, even in our later years.
How Many Times?
So back to the question, “How many times a week should a married couple who are Christ followers have sex?” Well the answer isn’t a number. The answer is, be vulnerable, be honest, talk, listen, learn about each other, have a deep sensitivity for your spouse.
The answer is,
Submit–to one another.
Dave Teixeira presented this material better than I ever could, and he covered more ground too, including information about sex and being single. I encourage you to listen to the teaching in its entirety. Sex In The Light, 05/01/2016
Dave didn’t share this but there’s some research out there indicating the more sex a couple has, the happier the relationship. I was surprised to learn that, according to the research “the happiness maxed out at sex about once a week.” (Nancy Shute, Is Sex Once A Week Enough For A Happy Relationship?, NPR, November 18, 2015)
[Image via Mercedes Dayanara– Creative Commons]