Home Marriage What Does the Bible Say About Depriving Your Spouse?

What Does the Bible Say About Depriving Your Spouse?

What Does the Bible Say About Depriving Your Spouse

The Bible has a lot to say about marriage and how spouses should treat each other. One topic it addresses is depriving your spouse sexually or emotionally.

In this post, we will explore what the Bible teaches on this sensitive issue through definitions, scriptural citations, theological perspectives, and practical applications.


Marriage is designed by God to be a beautiful union where husband and wife support, comfort and satisfy each other physically, emotionally and spiritually. However, in some marriages one spouse may find themselves depriving the other of these vital needs through their actions or lack thereof.

Whether intentional or not, depriving a spouse can damage the marriage covenant and cause hurt. So what does God’s word say about this sensitive topic? How should believers approach it to honor their commitment to one another and Christ?

Let seek to answer these questions through thoughtful examination of scripture and guidance from Christian scholars.

Defining Key Concepts

To have an informed discussion, we must first clarify some key concepts:


To deprive someone means to intentionally or unintentionally withhold something they need or are entitled to have. In marriage, depriving a spouse could include sexually, emotionally, financially or through other means not meeting their needs or fulfilling commitments inherent to the relationship.

Conjugal Rights

The Bible establishes that within marriage each spouse has a “right” to sexually fulfill the other. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 makes it clear that spouses should not “deprive” one another except by mutual consent for a set period of time to devote to prayer. Otherwise, spouses are to fully meet each other’s needs to avoid temptation.

Headship and Submission

The Bible establishes that in marriage the husband fills the role of “head” as the spiritual leader, while the wife submits to his authority. However, this does not mean husbands can neglect or abuse their wives.

Rather, headship involves sacrificially serving and protecting one’s wife as Christ does the church (Ephesians 5:25). Submission means respecting one’s husband, not being used or mistreated by him.

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What Scripture Says About Depriving a Spouse

With concepts defined, let’s examine key passages that address depriving one’s spouse:

1 Corinthians 7:3-5

As noted above, this passage most directly condemns depriving one’s spouse sexually except by “mutual consent” for a limited time of devotion to God. This establishes denying one’s spouse conjugal rights crosses a biblical line unless agreed upon temporarily for spiritual purposes.

Genesis 2:18, 24

In the creation account, God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” He then created woman. This shows marriage was designed by God to meet intimate relational needs through the “one flesh” union of husband and wife. Depriving denies this fundamental design.

Ephesians 5:25-33

Husbands are commanded to sacrificially love their wives as Christ loves the church by nourishing and cherishing them. Depriving goes against actively meeting a wife’s needs physically and emotionally. Wives also have a duty here to respectfully submit to rather than neglect their husband’s needs.

Colossians 3:18-19

Wives are to submit to husbands “as is fitting in the Lord” and husbands to love wives without “bitterness.” Depriving breeds bitterness and disharmony instead of the respect and care required in godly marriages.

1 Peter 3:7

Husbands must treat wives with “respect” as the “weaker partner” and as “heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.” Depriving violates showing respect and care for one’s wife as a spiritual equal.

Potential Dangers of Depriving a Spouse

If deprivation goes unchecked or unaddressed, it can seriously damage a marriage in several ways:

Temptation: Not meeting a spouse’s needs may tempt them to seek fulfillment elsewhere through affairs or other ungodly means contrary to biblical fidelity (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Resentment: Over time, felt deprivation breeds resentment, bitterness and anger in the deprived spouse that poisons the relationship (Colossians 3:19).

Emotional distance: Withdrawal and wall-building often result as deprived spouses feel unloved, used or disrespected by their partner’s actions (Ephesians 5:33).

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Breakdown of intimacy: A core component of marriage – physical and emotional intimacy through the “one flesh” union – disintegrates without effort from both spouses to meet each other’s God-given needs (Genesis 2:24).

Spiritual apathy: Feeling unfulfilled and taken for granted, deprived spouses may become apathetic about their own walk with God and commitment to the spiritual headship/submission roles within marriage.

If unaddressed, any of these can progress to the point marital problems require counseling or even lead to an unbiblical separation or divorce contrary to God’s design for lifelong covenant relationships (Matthew 19:6). So wisdom requires spouses act to prevent or remedy deprivation for the health of their marriage.

Theological Perspectives on Deprivation

Christian scholars and counselors offer perspectives on deprivation grounded in biblical theology:

Mutual Submission

Paul calls all Christians to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Some apply this within marriage, believing both spouses should equally submit mutually to meet each other’s needs, rather than an authoritarian demand-obedience dynamic. Depriving violates mutual care, respect and submission.

Unconditional Love

God’s love for humanity expressed through Christ is perfect, sacrificial and unconditional (Ephesians 5:25; John 3:16). Married Christians are called to model this love – not withholding or conditioning their affection, but actively meeting each other wherever they are at through consistently selfless love. Depriving oneself of truly loving in this way dishonors Christ.

Marriage as a Picture of Christ & the Church

A Christian marriage should reflect the gospel reality of Christ’s sacrificial love for the church. Depriving resembles failing to depict this relationship – where Christ nourishes and cares for believers no matter our responses or actions toward Him. Spouses undermine this “sermon in deeds” by depriving one another of care, protection and fulfillment.

Stewardship of Sexuality

God gifts each person with distinct sexuality and shares this as a blessing within marriage alone (1 Corinthians 7:2-5; Hebrews 13:4). Christian marriage involves faithfully stewarding these intimate gifts for one another alone. Withholding denies this sacred stewardship and dishonors the giver.

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Responding to Deprivation Biblically

So in summary, Scripture is clear deprivation violates God’s design and can seriously harm marriages if left unaddressed. How then should Christian spouses respond to experiences of deprivation in a wise, biblical manner?

Speak the Truth in Love

Open, vulnerable yet respectful communication is key (Ephesians 4:15). Express feelings and needs patiently, avoiding accusation, demanding obedience or resentment. Genuine listening and understanding the other perspective also facilitates resolution.

Seek Counseling If Needed

For persistent or deeply rooted issues, seeking Christian counseling demonstrates humility and prioritizes resolution over pride (James 5:16). Counselors help uncover root causes and restore communication/intimacy skills through biblical insight.

Pray and Fast Together Regularly

Come together before God, denying oneself for a time, to spiritually realign priorities and soften hearts through confession, intercession and listening to the Spirit (Matthew 6:16-18; 1 Corinthians 7:5).

Act with Grace, Not anger or Lawsuits

Always act forgivingly, as one forgiven, avoiding retaliation or obtaining a certificate of divorce out of resentment. Work for restoration through compassion (Matthew 18:21-22; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Lead through Sacrificial Service

Implementé•¿changes where needed by proactively meeting needs through Christlike love and protection, not passively waiting to be obeyed or served (Ephesians 5:25; Philippians 2:4). Lead the way in intimacy.


Marriage involves sacrificially meeting each other’s needs spiritually, emotionally and physically according to God’s design. The Bible clearly establishes this, providing wisdom for preventing and resolving issues like depriving one’s spouse.

With open communication established on a foundation of unconditional love, understanding different perspectives, seeking counsel freely if needed, and actively serving each other in imitating Christ, Christian marriages can overcome such challenges in a manner glorifying to God.

May all who follow Christ commit to honoring their covenant in this way.


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