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Sex and the Broken Relationship

How does sex fit into the picture when the relationship is broken and hurting? What about during separation or divorce?

On one hand, we’re taught that sex is a very private, personal matter where you can decide what works for you; what you do in the privacy of your own home is up to you. Our culture certainly promotes detaching sex from relationships, claiming it’s not hurting anybody, especially if it’s consensual.

On the other hand, we clearly see that sex is a very private, personal matter that is sacred to us. If someone invades that personal space without a healthy, trustworthy context, it eventually destroys our relationship with that person.

Sex is Meant as a Gift to Reflect God

It is true that the power of sex is profound—God created it to be! But it is easily twisted into something very different than He meant for us to experience when it becomes an act of coercion, manipulation, and entitlement. He meant it as a gift to reflect Him—love, intimacy, vulnerability, connection, joy.

I doubt those words describe the sexual experience of those who are in a broken relationship, separated, or divorced. There is no love, intimacy, vulnerability, connection, or joy where there is deceit, abuse, silencing, or contempt. Sex becomes just a physical, meaningless release which leaves at least one person feeling used, unloved, betrayed, and abandoned. This is especially true in the context of separation and divorce when it begins to feel like sex is a false sense of reconnection, a pastime in which each goes back to their own space with no responsibility to follow up with emotional care.

Emotional and Sexual Connection

What if it seems like sex is the ONLY connection you have? What about what the Bible says about “not defrauding” each other?

If you are serious about changing the trajectory of your marriage, you will have to take a hard look at these questions. If you are using sex to fulfill a need without addressing the need of emotional connection, you are using sex to harm, not bring life. Sex was meant to flow out of an emotional relationship, not dominate the relationship. In fact, when sex does dominate where there hasn’t been a solid foundation built emotionally, trust and love quickly erode.

If your sexual experiences end in shame, sorrow, or disgust, something is very wrong. Continuing to participate will make it harder, if not impossible, to heal from whatever has caused the emotional break in your relationship. It will compound your confusion about what’s happening and what to do about it.

Maybe you’re afraid that if you stop having sex with your estranged husband, he’ll simply go find it elsewhere…and maybe he will. That would be really sad. But, in reality, maintaining sex with your spouse just to keep him from going elsewhere misses what God designed it to be, too. Imagine how powerful it would be to see him honor you with his sexuality without you controlling it?

Maybe you feel coerced by not wanting to dishonor God by keeping your body from your spouse. I would challenge you to take another look at what it might mean to honor God sexually. If He created sexuality to be within the context of a relationship that reflects Him, what would that say about a husband demanding sex without caring for your heart?

If you can maintain a sexual relationship in the context of an emotionally broken space, and if that is something that is providing a healing space for both of you, there is probably not a good reason to stop. But, if it is creating more heartache and confusion, it’s worth putting it on the back-burner until the emotional connection can be tightly rebuilt. If you want to experience what God really intended for sexual intimacy, you cannot keep it separated from emotional intimacy. Allow yourself to get back to building a solid foundation in which both of you can thrive relationally.

We’re ready to help rebuild your relationship!

Here at the Marriage Recovery Center, we work with couples and individuals in all different stages of relationships. If you have questions or feel confused about your sexual relationship or you want to rebuild your emotional connection with your spouse, please contact us. We’d love to help!


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