Sex and Marriage – Part 2: Love and Understanding – A Couple’s Bible Study

This week we continue our study of what God teaches us about sexual relationships in marriage. Last week we began with some basics from God’s Word. We saw that sexual relations are part of God’s creation plan, and are only to be between one man and one woman committed to each other through the covenant of marriage as long as they both live–a covenant made between a husband, a wife, and God Himself.  We also observed that as part of His creation, God called sex within marriage a good thing. Something He designed and wants to be part of a healthy marriage. Something He wants us to enjoy and will bring us into that oneness He wants us to have in marriage.

God’s Word has a lot to say about relationships between husbands and wives. And these biblical truths apply to every part of our life and marriage, including our sex life.

God calls husbands to “love [their] wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). This type of love, you might recall, means putting the other person and their needs ahead of our own. If we love our spouse like this, it is guaranteed to make everything in our marriage better, including our intimate relationship.

How do we do this? In 1 Peter 3:7, husbands are given a major key: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.”

The amplified version (AMP) cites it this way: In the same way you married men should live considerately with [your wives], with an intelligent recognition [of the marriage relation], honoring the woman as [physically] the weaker, but [realizing that you] are joint heirs of the grace (God’s unmerited favor) of life.”

And I like the way the New American Standard Version (NASB) translates this verse: “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.”

1 Peter 3.7

Notice, men, that we are not told that we have to understand everything about our wives. God made us to be different–not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Thus when we marry, we become one or complete. We help each other to grow in our walk with the Lord, and to serve Him together in a way that will bring glory to Him that would not happen without us working together. We would not learn from each other if we and our spouse were exactly the same.

What we are taught is that we must spend our lives lovingly and graciously seeking to understand our wives. This will allow us to know their needs better and love them with an agape love as we strive to serve them by putting their needs ahead of our own. We may never fully understand some of the things they find important and enjoyable, but we can accept that they do. And so, out of love for our wives, we try to do those things with them or give them time to do those things.

I do not understand why my wife likes to spend hours walking through a mall to find that perfect outfit or shoes or whatever. Not when five minutes at Walmart will do it for me. But she does, and that’s all that matters.

Men, if you have trouble with this, try what I do sometimes. Just ask yourself, “Do I think Jesus enjoyed stepping down from heaven, being treated as He was, and dying on the cross?” Remember why He did it—because He loved us with agape love. Just the way He asks us to love our wives.

So, how can we husbands live with our wives in an understanding way when it comes to sex? Most of us are easily aroused and ready for sex just by the sight of our wives. But wives are typically less excited by the physical aspects of their husbands, and are more excited by things such as touch (like holding hands) and emotional attachments (like spending time and talking together). This fact is nothing new to most of us. But it has been surprising to me over my years of counseling to discover how many–husbands  especially– do not understand this.

Keep in mind that while this is typical, it is not always the case. God makes us all different. A general statement might be that sex for men is more focused on the physical, while sex for women is more focused on the emotional experience. Failure to understand this can lead to frustration and guilt.

enjoy sex life

Here is another example of this difference and how it can lead to disagreement in the marriage bedroom. Husbands usually want to see their wives undressed in a lighted room. While wives typically prefer to be held and caressed in the dark. Finding a way to compromise on this can help you both meet each others’ desires. For example, starting in the light and then dimming or turning off the lights as you move to the bed could be one solution. When we seek to find these ways to meet each others’ needs, we are showing each other agape love.

Husbands can also live with their wives in an understanding way by showing patience. Recognizing our wife’s pace is extremely important. Men are ready to head to the bedroom as soon as possible. But our wives still may be thinking about their day, the evening meal, the dishes, and getting the kids ready for bed. Until these things are done, they most likely won’t be in the mood. Doing the dishes, while she takes care of those other things, might be nice. After all that, a foot rub (or something else she enjoys) might also be nice to help her relax.

And by the way, don’t only do kind and relaxing things for your wife when you want sex. Do them with no other motive than to show love to her. Sabra loves me to rub her feet.  And I have come to enjoy doing it—even when there’s no sex involved–because it brings enjoyment to her  It’s a wise man who recognizes his wife’s pace  and helps her along at her own stride.

Wives, you may not be given these same instructions precisely relating to the marriage relationship, but we are all called to love each other as Christ loves us. Jesus said: “‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). The word Jesus used for love here is this agape love. Christ, again, is our example. And so wives should love their husbands the way Christ loves us.

John 13.34

Wives, for most of you, your sex drive and desire differs from your husband’s. But you can show your husband  agape love and be understanding about him in sacrificial ways, too. You can understand his need for the sexual act. You can understand his desire for you to take care of your body, because he is aroused by it. Sabra and I are older now, but she still is rarely too tired or unwilling for some other reason. She also works to take good care of her body by eating right and exercising. I know this is hard work, and I greatly appreciate it. And I know most husbands would.

And men, we should also take care of ourselves. We should do this for our wives and for the Lord. We are all told in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” So we not only honor and please our spouse, but we honor and please God when we keep our bodies as pure and healthy as we can. A former president of the seminary where I taught would say to us: “Take care of God’s temple” as part of your service to the Lord.

Husbands, we also need to let our wives know that we love and appreciate them, especially when we recognize that they are making special efforts for us. We may think that they should just know that we love them, appreciate them, and are thankful for them and what they are doing. But they like to hear it, and we should tell them.

One final thing God tells us in this same section of Scripture is that these truths apply to us even if our spouse is not a believer.

Read what God says about this situation in 1 Peter 3:1-2:Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

You see God’s Word applies to us and our marriages whatever our situation is. Again, read how the Amplified Bible helps us understand this passage even more: “In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives, When they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves, together with your reverence [for your husband; you are to feel for him all that reverence includes: to respect, defer to, revere him—to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband].”

These truths from God’s Word will make our marriages better. Living by them will make our sex lives better.

Here is one final word from God in this section of Peter’s letter that is a beautiful conclusion for this week’s teaching. Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”  

God wants us to enjoy our sex life. When we strive to understand our differences and put each other’s needs and desires above our own, we will experience beautiful intimacy–a oneness filled with love that strengthens our marriage.

Questions for Discussion

      • Wives, what is one thing you would like your husband to understand about you that perhaps he has not quite grasped? Present it to him in a loving, gentle, kind way. (And husbands, remember this is not about you. It’s about learning all you can about your wife so you can love her in a more Christ-like way.)
      • Husbands, what is one thing you can say to your wife that you truly appreciate about her. And what is one thing you are grateful for that she has done?
      • Wives, what is one thing your husband can do for you that will show you how much he loves you?
      • Husbands, what is one thing you would like for your wife to say or do for you to show her respect for you?
      • What will each of you say to God that will show Him your understanding of the importance of your marriage relationship and how thankful you are for your marriage and your spouse? This would be a great way to end your time together–in prayer.

Next week we will continue with more teaching from God’s Word about His perfect and beautiful plan for us to have a wonderful physical part to our marriages.

Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,


Other posts in the SEX AND MARRIAGE series:
Part 1–Created by God
Part 3–For the Good of the Other
Part 4–Two Warnings

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible (AMP),Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation

Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Header photo by vait_mcright via pixabay (CC0), cropped/text added.
Waves photo by CJ Johnson via snapwire (CC0 1.0), text added.

Part 2 sex marriage


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.