As a Christian woman, it’s hard to admit that physical attraction is one of my non-negotiables. I'm often made to feel like I’m confessing some secret sin from which I require immediate deliverance, as if wanting to be attracted to my spouse makes me carnal, superficial or “loose”. Now, it is quite possible my present perspective on this topic is spiritually immature. I might look back on this piece years from now, perhaps after I’m married, and find that my current priorities are slightly out of whack. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly about this at the moment and, even on the chance that it isn’t the most mature perspective, I’m certain it isn’t a sinful one.
Actually, from where I currently sit, this perspective is rooted in wisdom - wisdom gleaned from God’s Word and filtering through it a sincere awareness of who I am, my spiritual, emotional, and physical needs and my ultimate desire to do what pleases the Lord and have a healthy, Christ-exalting marriage.
Marrying a fellow Believer is God’s will for His children, and I have absolutely no intentions of neglecting that requirement - not even for the sake of physical attraction. In fact, the first thing I discuss with ANY man expressing interest in me is whether he knows Christ - as in the Christ of the Bible and not the lukewarm/false version preached by the likes of Joel Osteen and TD Jakes. Sadly, most don't even make it past this discussion. (That's another post.) If I'm to be wed and led, my husband's going to have to be leading me closer to the Lord, not away from Him. Yet, even as I vet potential suitors from among available Believers in Christ, it still feels highly unrealistic and disingenuous of me to treat physical attraction as something to be ignored, overlooked or considered as an afterthought. And no matter how spiritual one wishes to be with this subject, I honestly don’t believe the Lord would advocate for such an approach.
Whether it’s physical attraction or some other quality or trait, it seems the Lord gives us room to exercise discretion rooted in wisdom in choosing a spouse, as long as that person falls within God's explicit criteria. For example, to protect their family's inheritance, the daughters of Zelophehad were instructed to marry whomever they thought best as long as they chose men from among their tribe (see Numbers 36). Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, informs widows seeking to remarry that they have the freedom to marry whomever they wish, as long as their new spouse is in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39).
Being equally yoked in the Lord is a given, so that topic isn’t even up for debate here. What I do seek to defend is my right to hold to my desire to be physically attracted to my future spouse.
Again, the “whomever” we “think best” aspect of choosing a spouse in the Lord can entail any array of qualities or traits, and I certainly weigh a myriad of factors when determining overall compatibility. Yet, wisdom drives ME to consider physical attraction as an important component. This isn’t to say the individual has to meet society’s standards of beauty, because he doesn't. This isn’t to claim that physical attraction has to be a deal-breaking standard for every Christian, because it doesn’t (to each his own). And it’s certainly not to suggest that I’m the finest thing on two legs seeking same, or that I'd subject a gentleman to a level of scrutiny to which I wouldn’t want to be subjected. I’m simply saying that, taking all other qualities and traits into consideration, it is ALSO important that the gentleman I eventually marry is physically attractive TO ME.
Physical Attraction + Physical Intimacy
Physical attraction is necessary for true physical intimacy, and physical intimacy is reserved for and expected in marriage. Of course sin has perverted all of this - twisting physical attraction into lust and physical intimacy is widely expressed through sexual immorality, but the Lord designed sex to be enjoyed in the context of marriage (Genesis 1:28, 2:24). Even still, some have taken even this to the extreme and argue that sex is simply to be had for the sake of procreation, yet God clearly encourages married couples to also engage for pleasure and, frankly, to do so fairly often (Proverbs 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 7).
Life happens. You may have young children, a demanding job and your spouse is probably getting on your last nerves. Yet the Lord still says that married couples aren’t to deprive one another of sexual relations, for the wife’s body belongs to her husband and the husband’s body belongs to his wife (1 Corinthians 7:3-4). When I think about this requirement, knowing that life truly can get in the way, I’m inclined to consider that if I’m to meet my husband’s sexual needs (and he mine) we’ll need to give each other something to work with. We each need to find the other appealing. Call me naive, but I don’t want sex to feel like a chore or a favor. I want to sincerely desire my husband. I want to WANT to be with him. I want him to KNOW I actually want him. Certainly our love for God and one another is necessary to keep us married, but genuine physical attraction can only motivate (and never hinder) our “joining” together as regularly as we ought.
Marriage, Physical Attraction + Sexual Immorality
Again, physical intimacy is reserved for marriage, so if a single Believer isn’t prepared to live a lifetime of abstinence, marriage is the ONLY valid, Christ-honoring response to guard against sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2, 7:9). With this in mind, it goes without saying that there has to be physical attraction towards the person you marry, otherwise, what’s the point? Paul doesn’t expound on this, but I’d imagine he isn’t suggesting that we go out and marry the first random we meet for the sole purpose of “getting it in” without the fear of hell fire. That’s absurd! But if one recognizes their calling to marriage because they can't control themselves (live a life of abstinence), it would seem being physically attracted to the person they choose to marry would inherently be part of the selection process.
Of course, being physically attracted to your spouse isn’t a sure fire guarantee that one can’t still fall into sin after they are married. Yet it certainly doesn’t hurt the effort to guard against it. In fact, it seems to reinforce the wall against sexual immorality among couples sincerely walking with Christ and vigilant about their commitment to the Lord and each other. In Proverbs 5, King Solomon warns his son against falling into adultery by advising him to instead take pleasure in his wife’s bosom and to be “ravished” (KJV), “enraptured” (NKJV) or “intoxicated” (ESV) by her love forever. No matter which Bible translation you use, neither of these terms seems to be communicating that a husband simply appreciate his wife for her love of Christ and being a great mom. Indeed, a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30) and a virtuous wife is far more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10). Amen and AMEN! But in this particular lesson, the wisest man to have ever lived is teaching his son to also be physically satisfied in his wife - to have his physical interest captured and his physical needs met by her alone.
To be sure, negating physical attraction in a marriage is only a set up for failure, as it does more to invite sin in than keep it at bay. Paul instructs married couples to come together often, except during mutually agreed upon times of fasting, because Satan is ALWAYS seeking to tempt us in our weaknesses (1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Peter 5:8). If I’m not physically attracted to my husband, I’m liable to be cold towards him, to rebuff his advances, and deny him his conjugal rights early and often. He, in turn, can grow cold from feeling rejected, which might lead him to be emotionally unavailable, which would only exacerbate my lack of attraction. Satan would be all over that! Spiritually speaking, I most certainly can respect a man for being responsible and reliable, and I can admire him for his love for Christ. That makes him an awesome Brother in the Lord. Yet my intention is to love my HUSBAND in every way, to not deprive him of his sexual rights nor resent him for having sexual needs. The goal here is to put up as many barricades as we can against either of us being tempted to stray. I can’t control anyone’s actions but my own and whatever my husband does/doesn’t do is ultimately on him. Yet I count it prudent to do my part by recognizing potential pitfalls from the beginning and robbing my flesh of an excuse to sin against the Lord and my spouse.
Marriage, Vanity + Life Under the Sun
"Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart " (1 Samuel 16:7). Many quote this scripture to suggest that looking at the outward appearance is inherently sinful. But if it were, the entire Song of Solomon needs to be removed from the Bible. They were carrying on about breasts, skin complexion, teeth and every other aspect of each other's physical appearance (scripture reference: the whole book). It's poetry, yet they were dropping truth that can be applied spiritually (Christ and the Church) and in the natural (husband and wife). When God says He looks at the heart, He is reiterating that His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9) and is reminding us of the foolishness and limitations in judging merely by outward appearance (John 7:24). Taking this verse in context, we see the Lord demonstrating how one can be beautiful in appearance and stature all while having been rejected by the Lord. But in Christ, none of us is rejected by Him, which is why I won't be neglecting the wisdom in God's explicit commandment to be equally yoked with a fellow Believer. Again, a man in Christ is my primary standard for vetting a potential suitor, and I'm relying on the Lord's Word, His wisdom, to select a spouse of godly character, which is eternal beauty. Yet, as I'm exercising discernment in choosing a godly mate, I recognize the reality that he and I will still have to live as mates and, well, mate. There remain five senses God’s given us to enjoy His creation under the sun, and I don't see the problem with my desire to use them to enjoy my spouse.
There won’t be marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30). We won’t need it because the perfect spiritual and eternal union of Christ and His Bride (the Church) will finally be realized (Revelation 19:7). And might I add, when He returns, He's coming for a glorious Bride without blemish, spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27). But in the vain, toil-ridden, fleeting, fallen and perishing meantime, the Lord has still graciously granted mankind the gift of marriage - and all its joys - as our portion in this life (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Yes, beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30). But marriage is also temporal. All of this stuff is vanity. Our eternal hope isn't in any of it. Yet we get to enjoy these things, in their proper context, while we are able. So in this temporary arrangement which is only a shadow of the Marriage to come, I endeavor to enjoy my husband for all the days and in all the ways the Lord graces me to enjoy him under the sun - his companionship, his discipleship, his personality, his wisdom, his quirks and YES, his being physically attractive TO ME. If basking in the total beauty of her "beloved" is acceptable for the Shulamite woman, it’s also acceptable for me.
I Said All of This To Say...
A man’s relationship with Christ is an absolute must. He has to have that to even get my attention. But when he gets my attention and there’s no spark, then what? Marry him anyway with the hope that the physical attraction will eventually come?
I will not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. That is a given, as it is the Lord’s good and perfect will. Yet the wisdom I’ve gleaned from the Lord’s Word also tells me it would not be profitable for me to court and marry any man toward whom I hold no physical attraction. Apparently there are couples who've gotten married despite a lack of attraction, and I do understand that not all Believers view physical attraction as something of utmost importance or even necessary - more grace and power to them! But God knows physical attraction is important to me. It’s not the only requirement. It’s not the primary requirement. But it is a requirement.
Marriage, as beautiful as it can be, is work. Even with two Christians yoked together, there's still two individuals with flesh needing to be crucified daily. I don’t see the wisdom in intentionally introducing any unnecessary stumbling blocks to the mix under the guise of “faith” or “spiritual maturity”. I refuse to marry someone to whom I’m not attracted for the sake of being married or to appear more spiritual. In addition to a lifetime commitment, mutual respect, sacrifice and submission, God said the married are to be enraptured, to be fruitful and multiply, and to find their physical satisfaction with each other. I don't care how lame it is to say this, but I want that for my marriage. I want to fully glorify the Lord in every aspect and in every state of my life. In my singleness, my focus is solely on the Lord. In marriage, I will be joined to a man in the Lord. As a wife, I endeavor to honor and carry out all of my "wifely duties" according to the Word of the Lord. If the choice is singleness or entering into a marriage with a Brother with whom I have absolutely no physical spark, remaining single is the most mature, faithful and spiritual option for me. As a married woman, my interests will be divided, as I’ll have to please the Lord and also consider how to please my husband (1 Corinthians 7:33-34). So if I ever marry, I’m simply trying to keep the line which divides those interests as thin as possible.
As I said in the beginning, I am willing to concede that my present perspective could be spiritually immature. But I honestly don’t believe it is. Yet, I look forward to writing an update to this piece someday if anything changes.
In the vain, toil-ridden, and fleeting meantime...
“Hello, I'm a Christian and physical attraction is important to me.”
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