Many things have been done in the name of love, which in fact are not love. And sadly this is true even in the marriage bed. It happens, for instance, when one spouse feels he or she must cave in to the sexual expectations of the other for the “sake of love.” However, when the fruit of such encounter is bitterness and resentment, it is clear that true love was not being expressed.
The Christian ideal is that spouses are making love with each other and not just having sex. It is love that elevates the act and opens the door for spiritual bliss and oneness. When the encounter is the result of cowering to expectations, it might technically be sex, but probably not making love.
While love never gives up and endures through every circumstance, it remains free. It does not demand its own way nor is it something given in response to pressure. It is our free will offering to do what is good and needed for the sake of our beloved. While this requires sacrifice, it does not mean we compromise who we are by catering to the expectations of our spouse. Resentment is often the result of such compromises.
To help ensure the presence of love, sexual encounters should flow freely from desire or a decision, not from demands or faithless duty.
This does not mean we must always feel like making love before engaging. Certainly passionate desire is nice when it is present, but love is ultimately a choice, and we are called to make this choice even when we don’t feel like it. Still, it remains a free choice. And as such, it is not something your spouse takes from you; it is something you freely offer (see John 10:18). You are actively choosing to make love to your spouse, and not passively allowing yourself to be used. That is, you are consciously and fully engaging with your spouse. When love is freely given, resentment does not follow.
In those moments when you cannot say Yes in love, then saying No might be the most loving thing to do. This No now protects the sanctity of the encounter, not letting it be anything less than love. Whether you say Yes or No the requirement is love.
Are you saying Yes merely to appease your spouse, while allowing yourself to be used? Are there strings attached to your Yes? Are you saying No to punish your spouse, or because it is simply easier than taking the risk of opening yourself up and choosing unconditional love?
God’s best is missed when the marriage bed does not reflect love freely given. May your sexual expressions be a free gift of love to your spouse.
What do you think? Does your marriage bed reflect this free gift of love? What makes this difficult? What helps you to grow in this regard?