“..come together again so that Satan will not tempt you
because of your lack of self-control…”

I’m blessed not only with a good wife, who has abiding contempt for feminism, but lots of female friends who hold toxic man-hatred in contempt as well. This is more or less a planned reality on my part, because life, in my view, is too short to spend with people—male or female—who get all tribal and clannish about their underpants.

This doesn’t mean we should be on the path towards unisex egalitarianism, rigorously demanding a 50/50 gender split in every profession and a deadlocked democracy within every marriage. I don’t agree with Matt Walsh all the time, but he was absolutely right about the poisonous fruits disrespect for husbands will bear in any marriage. Men have a particularly difficult time abiding wives who belittle them and wives who put an emotional price tag on their affections. Only the weakest of men will abide that. Female bickering, nagging, insulting, and frigidity will kill a marriage long before it is formalized by divorce.

For honorable people, however, there is a dilemma caused by the contractual, covenantal nature of marriage.  When we promise to “love, honor, and respect, forsaking all others,” in practice, the “forsaking all others” is the only part of the vow with any teeth. Everyone understands a spouse who calls for divorce because of infidelity.  Certainly, that’s an ancient, Biblical truth. But what about the wife who belittles, nags, and begrudges her affection?  What about the man who perpetually withdraws emotionally?  The frustrated marital victim of those failures is told to “be patient.”

“Love, prayer, and patience” are certainly fine tools against these slow, grinding marital termites, but “hard core reformation” (fumigation) is sometimes necessary as well.  Young husbands, you need to train your wives. Young wives, you need to make your expectations clear.  If your wife is nagging you, or being frigid, those are not “accept me as I am” realities. That has to change. If your husband is thoughtless, unwilling to talk, and has no investment in romance, he needs to be told as much.

In practice, I think feminism comes to the assistance of women, on this front, even in the church, in ways that make their complaints more effectively addressed than those of their male counterparts. What pastor, after all, has trouble telling the men of his congregation to “love your wife?” Love is very easy, very comfortable pastoral territory. On the other hand, most pastors would need an athletic supporter and a stainless steel cup if he were to preach, “women, stop nagging your husbands and give them some good sex; see if that gets you the love you crave.”

The apostle Paul knew the potential problems millennia ago, when he advised couples:  “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” It sounds like the amount of sex you should have as a couple has everything to do with mutuality. If either side is being denied, it’s not enough.

And temptation, according to scripture, seems to have a lot to do with how happy you are sexually in marriage. These days, people act as though pornography springs purely from the selfishness of men, but it might have a little to do with the selfishness and frigidity of wives as well?  (I’m aware this works in reverse too, and that women seek both emotional and sexual pornography when they are unloved, but even the hint that pornography might be the result of inattentiveness on the part of a spouse, male or female, seems to be a forbidden topic of conversation these days. It is the question you simply can’t ask: “well, were you rationing your sexuality?  Did that have any role in this problem?”)

The terrible awkwardness of talking about sex works to advance another marital poison.  Let’s put it this way: if a  woman were hungry for real love, real thoughtfulness, and a man were “faking it” with last minute flowers and gifts that showed no real attention to her needs, we would have no problem talking about apocryphal love. There is no danger in pointing out fake thoughtfulness, fake love. But what about apocryphal sex? If a woman were to give every evidence of actually disliking sex, actually seeing it as a chore, if she removed her clothing begrudgingly, if she showed contempt for women who played the seductress with their husbands, if she endlessly “spiritualized” every sexual encounter, would it be any real surprise if her mate properly grumbled that not only was she faking it, but that she didn’t put any value in even putting on a good act? At least the guy who bought the last minute flowers was trying. He doesn’t barge in the door and shout, “well, there’s your damn flowers.”

The Song of Solomon lovers are absolutely unapologetic about good sex. Yes, of course, they love each other. Yes, of course, they are committed to each other, but if the actual text was not recorded in scripture, you can almost hear a few Baptist wives out there, bitching about the idolatry of all the bosom and belly-button and liquor talk.  Sound marital advice, and I think sound scriptural would be: “women should try being a little pornographic with their husbands and husbands should be a little more “romance novel” with their wives.

Ignoring all of this, at the very least, will put your marriage in danger.  At the worst, it could bring it to a bitter end. Taking vows, and only observing the ones that please you, the ones that won’t destroy your house with an abrupt earthquake may end up bringing it down by decades of nibbling termites.