When Sex Becomes Abusive in Marriage

Sexual abuse can happen in marriage. Here are a few ways to identify it.

The hallmark of Satan’s work in our lives is to distort good things. Food, instead of bringing nourishment, becomes a compulsion. Work, rather than giving us purpose, often enslaves us. And some relationships that should represent love and intimacy are in reality violent and destructive. Sex was created to be a profound source of bonding for a married couple, but in some marriages it has become the source of division and destruction.

Sexual abuse within marriage can be quite a confusing concept. After all, doesn’t the Bible teach that a wife’s body belongs to her husband, and her husband’s body belongs to her? Specifically, it says, “The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4). Husbands have been known to quote such biblical teaching as a justification for sexually abusing their wives or demanding sex as a God-given right, but this verse seems to leave both a woman and man open to unwanted sex.

The recent popularity of BDSM (which stands for Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, and Masochism) has blurred the lines of consensual sex even more. A couple that may begin by consensually experimenting with one person dominating the other in the bedroom may end up violating the will of the “submissive” spouse. This is simply sexual abuse by a chic name.

It's critical to be able to recognize when your marriage has become abusive in the bedroom. The dictionary defines the verb abuse as “to use something to a bad effect or for a bad purpose.” God did not create sex to be a weapon used to harm, manipulate, or coerce. Sexual abuse in marriage is just as vile as any other form of sexual abuse. It's one person exploiting the trust and vulnerability of the other person, and God hates it.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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May 25

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