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Hot and Monogamous, just as God intended

What_About_Sex_For_The_Widowed_SpouseI received a question today that frankly stunned me:

Do you have anything on, “What to do if you’re a widow or widowed now”, as now there’s no sexual partner but only desires, what do you do?
Thank you

It stunned me because, I have not given a single thought to this, and frankly, that’s pretty rare for me.  Usually I have some thought on any subject.  But this time I sort of echoed the question: “Yeah! What DO you do?”

So, I turn to the Bible, because it is my first source of wisdom.  Then I discussed it with my wife, because she is my second source of wisdom, and she basically pointed me back to the Bible (with suggestions).  And then I thought about it because, well, that’s what I do, and sure enough, more Bible verses came to mind.  So, here’s what I came up with.

But to the unmarried people and to the widows, I declare that it is well (good, advantageous, expedient, and wholesome) for them to remain [single] even as I do.

But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire].

- 1 Corinthians 7:8-9

Now, you can’t discuss this topic without touching this verse, and sadly I think it probably gets dismissed a lot by the widow(er)s because “Well, Paul was single, he didn’t know what he was talking about.”  After all, it’s a completely different story being single and never knowing sex then to have had it and then lost it.  Sort of a reverse of “it is better to have loved and lost…” with regards to ignorance of realized sexual desires.

But, I want to challenge that belief, there is numerous evidence pointing to the likelihood that Paul was married at one point.  From his writings in Greek and the words he chooses to denote widow(er)s and himself, to the fact that he was a Pharisee, and likely considered a rabbi, which would have required him to have a wife, to the sense that he was being groomed for the Sanhedrin, which would have required him to be married. Add to this the Jewish culture of the day, which made marriage and procreation a religious obligation, and no Pharisaic Jewish rabbi, being raised to lead in the Sanhedrin, would not be married at a respectable age.  But, it is clear that Paul was not married during this ministry.  Which means either he was a widower, or that his wife left him when he converted to Christianity.  In either case, he would have known what it was like to have a sex life and then suddenly to not.  So, let’s say he knows what he’s talking about and the Bible is right (which is my general base assumption anyways).

So, what does Paul say in this verse?  It’s pretty simple either:

  1. Stay Celibate
  2. Get Married

There is no third option.  It is also discussed that you should not remain celibate if it causes desires which you cannot control.

So, the “Get Married” option brings you back into marriage and back into familiar ground for this blog.  I’m not sure what else to say on that.

The “Stay Celibate” is a bit outside of the regular scope, but I’m going to try and tackle it all the same, because widowhood is an inevitable outcome for at least one spouse in the large majority of marriages.

My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord;

But the married man is anxious about worldly matters—how he may please his wife—

And he is drawn in diverging directions [his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God]. And the unmarried woman or girl is concerned and anxious about the matters of the Lord, how to be wholly separated and set apart in body and spirit; but the married woman has her cares [centered] in earthly affairs—how she may please her husband.

- 1 Corinthians 7:32-34

So, one benefit to being single again is that you can focus your energy, time, anxiety, etc on God, on doing His work, on furthering His kingdom.

Let no one be put on the roll of widows [who are to receive church support] who is under sixty years of age or who has been the wife of more than one man;

And she must have a reputation for good deeds, as one who has brought up children, who has practiced hospitality to strangers [of the brotherhood], washed the feet of the saints, helped to relieve the distressed, [and] devoted herself diligently to doing good in every way.

But refuse [to enroll on this list the] younger widows, for when they become restive and their natural desires grow strong, they withdraw themselves against Christ [and] wish to marry [again].

And so they incur condemnation for having set aside and slighted their previous pledge.

Moreover, as they go about from house to house, they learn to be idlers, and not only idlers, but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say and talking of things they should not mention.

So I would have younger [widows] marry, bear children, guide the household, [and] not give opponents of the faith occasion for slander or reproach.

For already some [widows] have turned aside after Satan.

If any believing woman or believing man has [relatives or persons in the household who are] widows, let him relieve them; let the church not be burdened [with them], so that it may [be free to] assist those who are truly widows (those who are all alone and are dependent).

- 1 Timothy 5:9-16

Wow.  I doubt anyone in this day and age wants to touch this with a 10 foot pole.  But, you cannot pick and choose scripture.  The bulk of this scripture is talking about providing for the physical needs of widows who have no one to turn to, they can be hired by the church, basically, in exchange for a vow of celibacy (is how I read it).  It is obvious, from the passage, that there is a danger in deciding to remain celibate if you are widowed too young.  Women are built with a desire (some stronger than others) to have children and watch them grow up, and a woman that is widowed early in life may still feel that imperative.  It is not easy to break a vow of celibacy to God, and it is not a vow that should be taken lightly.  But there is a danger as well in keeping a vow of celibacy while having desires tell you you should be doing otherwise.  The young woman could take her frustration out on the people she is supposed to be serving, and thus damage any good will she would have otherwise done.

Shun immorality and all sexual looseness [flee from impurity in thought, word, or deed]. Any other sin which a man commits is one outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18

Now, I think this is great advice for anyone, but these warnings against sexual immorality may be particularly meaningful for those who no longer have a spouse with which to have a righteous sexual union.  Paul warned spouses to not spend too much time apart for fear that the devil will tempt them because of their lack of self-control.  Widow(er)s have a definite handicap here.  There is no spouse to turn to, to rejoin with.  They must be on their guard against such things.  Having a group of single women or men with which to do things, to commiserate when need be, to hold you accountable and lift you up can be a great help in these times.

But [as for] you, teach what is fitting and becoming to sound (wholesome) doctrine [the character and right living that identify true Christians].

Urge the older men to be temperate, venerable (serious), sensible, self-controlled, and sound in the faith, in the love, and in the steadfastness and patience [of Christ].

Bid the older women similarly to be reverent and devout in their deportment as becomes those engaged in sacred service, not slanderers or slaves to drink. They are to give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble,

So that they will wisely train the young women to be sane and sober of mind (temperate, disciplined) and to love their husbands and their children,

To be self-controlled, chaste, homemakers, good-natured (kindhearted), adapting and subordinating themselves to their husbands, that the word of God may not be exposed to reproach (blasphemed or discredited).

In a similar way, urge the younger men to be self-restrained and to behave prudently [taking life seriously].

And show your own self in all respects to be a pattern and a model of good deeds and works, teaching what is unadulterated, showing gravity [having the strictest regard for truth and purity of motive], with dignity and seriousness.

And let your instruction be sound and fit and wise and wholesome, vigorous and irrefutable and above censure, so that the opponent may be put to shame, finding nothing discrediting or evil to say about us.

- Titus 2:1-8

Lastly, I think there is a great task to be done in teaching.  I think we are missing this in our churches.  I cannot say that anyone, when I was growing up, took me aside and taught me how to be self-restrained and to behave prudently.  Likewise, there were no older women from the church teaching my wife how to prepare to be a good spouse.  This is something that is lost to us.  Everyone just minds their business and goes on with their life assuming it will work out.  You can change that.  Get in peoples faces, take the teenagers, and young adults, and newly married spouses out for tea and talk about life, your experiences, your lessons learned the hard way, what is important in life, in marriage.  I think that could be the single greatest impact in our society today.  Our families are being targeted and warn down, but there is too little being done to shore them up.

Your Turn

So, that’s what I found.  I sincerely hope this helps.  Of course, this is me thinking from outside of the situation, I have no way of knowing what the reality is like.  Please, let us know in the comments so we can better understand, and better prepare if this is what’s in store for us.  Teach us young people.

24 Responses to What about sex for the surviving spouse?

  • When married, a sex toy can be used with mutual agreement. Would this also be “okay” for a widow(er)? Or does this now fall into the fornication category?

    • I can only give my opinion based on what I read in the Bible, and from what I read and understand (and many will disagree), having sex (in which I include self-sex, masturbation, both others do not) without your spouse constitutes adultery/fornication (in Greek, this is the same word, “porneia” which covers a range of sexual immortality, and is where we get the term pornography from).

      So, as I read it, yes, masturbation does now fall into the fornication category (with or without a toy). But each much make their own decision and act according to their convictions, do not do something because I tell you. Read the Bible yourself, question it, wrestle with it, talk to God.

  • Two comments, first I do find parts of the Timothy passage difficult to understand. Perhaps unfair. It seems to unfairly judge those who were unable to have children and those who have been married twice. If you marry twice and have the misfortune to be widowed twice, why should the church not help them? I know this is probably a comment no human can answer and we can only ask God the intention behind it.

    Second is a question for you Jay Dee. My understanding of the bible is that remarriage is ok after your spouse dies or if your spouse is an adulterer. And that according to the writings of Paul, divorce is ok if you are abandoned – but not sure that extends to remarriage. Unless your ex hooks up with someone else, in which case they have committed adultery and you’re free.

    But what happens in the situation where you don’t have a biblical areason to divorce your spouse but separation is a must (eg if your spouse is violent or a drug addict or similar, where they are genuinely unliveable with). What about sex drive then?

    I was faced with this situation. My exhusband was an incredibly violent man. After he savagely attacked our then 5 year old daughter, I asked him to leave (temporarily until he could get his mental illness and drug use under control). As much as it hurt terribly to find out he was cheating, and I never sought a divorce (he demanded it, and I stayed determined to give him a chance to work things out, right up until the day the court gave him the divorce – I fought it til the end). If I hadn’t found out about the cheating, I would have been stuck in limbo as long as were both alive. Feeling like I couldn’t be with someone else, but him refusing to work things out.

    Being someone with a high sex drive, I’d have been totally lost. It was hard enough in the six years before I married again.

    But anyway… was just wondering.

    • I agree, the married twice issue is difficult. Some versions say “has been faithful to her husband”. What the Greek literally says is “having-become (been) of-one man women (wife)”, which is pretty ambiguous. So, this could be talking about marriage, it could be talking about adultery. We don’t know, I wish I had a better answer for that. I think, because we don’t know, this should be address on a case-by-case basis, and use whatever wisdom the elders of the church receive from God.

      I’ll be honest, I don’t want to answer the second question. There’s so much potential for hurt in answering it, not just to you, but to many others in similar situations. But, I’m going to try to. I just need a little more time.

  • My wife and I actually have discussed this. She promised, with no prompting from me, that if I were to die she would not remarry, she is mine and mine alone forever. We are past having more kids so I’m not worried about her turning into some gossipy busybody, she’ll have lots to do without me around.

    I can’t say how touched I am at this, and I feel a bit guilty too because I can’t return that promise. I know that I’ll need to have somebody in my life if I have lots of years left, it is not good for this man to be alone. In my case I would be of less use to God alone than with the strength I receive through the love of a godly woman, but at the same time I can’t see myself ever finding somebody who would mean as much to me as her.

    Hopefully we can just go together.
    LatterDay Marriage recently posted..Intimacy lessons from a jar of peanut butterMy Profile

  • The bit in 1 Tim 5:11 is huge, especially when you realise that “younger widows’ means those up to 60!. Basically Paul is saying a 55 year old widow WILL get so horny she will marry again!

    • Taking into account Jewish laws regarding the mans requirement to satisfy his wife, it poses the question: what did we do to women that makes the current stereotype that they almost need to be tricked into sex? Because it sounds like they were quite voracious in Biblical times.

      Or maybe we did something to men to make us less desirable.

      • This is a huge question that no one seems to be discussing. The Jews of old clearly felt women had a very strong desire for sex. In medieval Europe it was thought that women had a much higher drive than men, and many thought them sexually insatiable. A large cross cultural study found that women’s self define sex drive was very much influenced by their culture.

        Where the truth is I do not know, but I am sure we are not living it!

        • Agreed! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this, looking all over for answers. Christianity is not addressing it at all, and the secular world is barely doing so, and even when they do, they typically do so in a manner that destroys marriages.

          I think I have some ideas on the truth of it, and how to fix it in a marriage, but I need some more time, experience, and probably some conversations and other peoples data to flesh it out, to make sure it’s not just applicable to my own marriage.

          • As a high drive and often unsatisfied wife, I believe the answer is multi faceted. My dh seems to find my “insatiable” drive annoying and bothersome and certainly not something he enjoys dealing with. He seems to be upset that I am not one of those wives who begrudgingly gives sex whenever he needs a vagina rather than his own hand…and the excuse to use his own hand.

            I am burning right now because of unmet desires. Keeping busy helps and spending time with the Lord. But sometimes the drive is physically painful and mentally anguishing. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not masturbation is a sin, but in my case, while so many justify it in blog posts and counseling, I believe it is not what God wants.

            But God is a God of intimacy and promises to supply all our needs according to His riches and glory, so we can rest in the.comfort of Him knowing us fully. Is languishing in unmet sexual needs what God desires for us? That being said, I don’t know what His will is in such difficult situations as these. I do know masturbation is not his ideal or desire for us.

            • That is the problem with freewill. A lot of things that are not in God’s will specifically have to exist to fulfill His will for the mankind (freewill). If He were to protect us from everything, then it would invalidate other’s freewill, and thus make our own meaningless.

        • I totally believe that the reason for many women’s low sex drive is simply they believe it’s “normal” for a woman to feel that way, or that sex is a dirty thing so that where once they may have felt strong sexual desires when they were younger, that this has been forced out of them by society and some church’s teachings.

          I see it in my own family where my mother has brainwashed my younger sister into thinking sex is revolting and good women don’t want it, and men are all perverts and only want sex and don’t really love women. And it has permanently damaged my sister’s interactions with the opposite sex. When you walk around thinking every man is a rapist and sex is something you only do in marriage as a chore to stop your husband from cheating, it damages a person.

          Even in my brother, it took til he was in his late 20s to realise sex is not a bad thing, that is a glorious gift from God in the right circumstances – and he is still very shy and embarassed about girls, relationships and sex (he turns the colour of beetroot if he has to say the word “sex”).

          Of my mum’s four kids, I was by far the most independent one. I don’t totally ignore my parents, but I think about everything and I take the good, biblical things they say and listen, and I ignore the many idiotic and incorrect and outright unbiblical things they say at times. My dad can’t even say the word sex, and my mum constantly goes on about how disgusting and bad it is.

          Thankfully I never absorbed a word of that rubbish, and even though the church I grew up only preached the evils of premarital sex and never about the good sex of marriage, I somehow learnt from other christian sources. And because of that, it has never influenced my drive. At times I have thought I was a freak for having a high drive, but I have come to realise with time and research, that I am not a freak – I have the drive that God made us with and I just haven’t let bad teaching and societal pressure rob me of that.

          I wish other women would come to realise the same – that their low drive isn’t normal and not how God made us. That sex is something that can be enjoyed and frequently.

          • I agree, I think that’s a big part of it: societal teaching. As much as it pushes images of sexuality, and are blatant about this “sexual freedom”, and how everyone’s involved, there is this undercurrent that women don’t want sex, and you need to either trick them into sex, or barter for sex, or be so pitiful that they eventually throw you a bone and have sex with you.

            Thanks for the female perspective of one who hasn’t lost her drive.
            Jay Dee recently posted..What about sex for the surviving spouse?My Profile

  • Thank you for answering me so quickly , but what do I do when I have these desires to want to
    relieve the feeling within me. They are so strong and I keep saying the Our Father over and over
    constantly. These feeling I never had so strong before. I had these feelings now for at least three weeks , please tell me what to do. I appreciate any advice you and your wife can give me
    Thank you, Audrey Brown

  • I think something very simple may have been left out as a response to this question. How about praying and asking God to remove the desire if no potential marriage partner is in your future?

    I was single until I was 41 years old and had to seriously wrestle with God over my sexual desires and the desire to have a family when none seemed imminent. I remember reading the verses on having the gift of celibacy and begging God to not let that be me! Yet I had to deal with my sexuality and desires. We do not become sexual beings when we are married. We are born sexual beings. So learning how to manage our sexuality in a God honoring way can really be a challenge. It is not just an issue for teenagers!

    I prayed for God to send me someone to have sex with. I cried many tears when that was not forth coming. I then prayed for God to remove my desire for family and sex if that was not in my future. He removed the desire to have children but not the desire for sex and intimacy. I constantly wrestled with God about this. My prayer life was vibrant!

    I remember being really frustrated and hurt that I had no one in the church to talk to who wouldn’t just trot out a “purity” line. You did not do that Jay Dee and I really appreciate that! You gave it a lot of thought and said you would follow up on further questions. Thank you for being willing to help people in a position of being a sexual being but having no legitimate recourse for sexual expression at this time.

    I married a widower 2 years ago. The reality is that 50% of marriage partners will be alone and have to deal with this at some point in their life. He was like the men who commented above, he needed a wife and functioned best that way. Try being in your 50′s with a formerly healthy sex life and remain pure until married. We did remain pure but the challenges are different when its two adults who understand what is missing.

    Oh how I wish the church would be more open to discussing sex, especially for older singles.

  • I was just wondering what your resources are for Paul being a widower? I’ve heard that before and when I looked into it, I haven’t found a reliable source that makes a solid case…. it’s always seemed to be on someone’s blog with no footnotes to where they got their information.

    • I’ll be honest, I don’t recall the first or the last source I’ve seen for this, I’ve come across it so many times. You can take a few arguments to come to the assessment.

      I strongest one I see is that Paul was considered the best of the best of Jewish Pharisaic society (Philippians 3:5, Galatians 1:14, Acts 22:3). Marriage was the norm for Pharisees and was required for rabbis (Paul was likely considered a rabbi).

      Basically, he could hardly claim to be the pinnacle of Jewish citizenry if he was not married.

      If you want something to read though, a quick 19 page document is Celibacy In Judaism at the Time of Christian Beginnings. It sheds some light on the views on marriage at the time.

  • This Is Wonderful Information Thank You

  • My hubby and I have talked extensively about remarriage after the death of either of us. He has told me to wait a year before making any big changes in my life. I can’t imagine what a year of loneliness would do to a person. Don’t want to think about it. I told him that I did not care who he marries, after I was gone, but to be real picky. He would need to find one with very little baggage. Haha. Don’t want him to marry a lemon. In all seriousness though, it would put either one of us in a very sad scenario, almost unimaginable. Both of us would remarry if there was a death. In the meanwhile, we will remain faithful and true to one another, just the way God intended.

  • Just wanted to say that I not only appreciate the way you present your information, but also agree with you on the few posts from your that I have read. This one especially because you refer us to scriptures. I am a 70 something male that has been single for far too many years. My challenges in the area of remaining sexually pure the last couple of years have been greater than any other time I can remember. READING the scriptures is my salvation.
    Thanks.
    By the way, I just stumbled onto this blog today. don’t know if I’ll be a regular because, as you’ve said, when we read about and talk about sex, it does increase our desire.

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