By instructing married couples not to “deprive one other” Paul establishes that sex is an essential element in a healthy marriage. It is not to be weaponized as a bargaining tool or used to manipulate your spouse. Rather, it is a blessed duty that wives and husbands owe each other.
A “duty” is barely how the media romanticize the sexual act. If television and romance novels are to be believed, ardent passion and spontaneity are necessary hallmarks of the act. On the other hand, duty connotes intentionality and responsibility—not the most “romantic” words. This unrealistic expectation of what sex between lovers should look like sets up those waiting until marriage for unnecessary disillusionment while glorifying sex outside of marriage for its attendant excitement.
Substituting sex for intimacy, the devil entices unmarried individuals to drink from broken cisterns. It has come to be common for sex to be part of the journey to getting to know someone romantically. If the sexual intercourse is not thrilling, the world says, then you’re not made for each other. If and when the sexual intercourse loses its ardor, a couple, whether married or not, is to believe that they are not well matched.
In reality, intimacy surpasses the sexual act, which is a manifestation of intimacy and not its definition. Sexual intercourse is the outworking of intimacy appropriate only within marriage. In marriage, it is an expression of closeness that brings the couple closer still. Outside of marriage, it deprives the parties of a deeper connection. Thus, before marriage, the devil does all he can to get you to engage in sexual intercourse; and after marriage he does all he can to keep you from intercourse with your spouse.