I am a 59-year-old man who was dIvorced last year, and sInce then have struggled to contaIn my sex drIve. I am not into porn, my only sexual feelings are to my ex as we enjoyed a very good sex life. There is a school of Christian thought that says that, in the Lord’s eyes, there is no divorce spiritually and that my ex and I can sleep together. Is this biblical or is it just my imagination? How do Christians in my situation cope without sex? I have heard some absolute rubbish talked about this eg do some physical exercise, have a clearout of the spare room, turn your mind on to helping your neighbour – fine sentiments but of little use at 2am when you would give just about anything for intimacy. Masturbation has left me feeling empty and totally unsatisfied. The reasons for our divorce were a separate issue unconnected with sex but my ex and I are still drawn to each other sexually and I wonder whether we should continue our sex life.

I will do my best not to give you any trite answers as you have obviously had your fill of those. Paul’s answer in 1 Corinthians 7:9 [to single people and widows] is that it is better to marry than to burn with passion. However, he doesn’t really advocate this and describes the best way as having a “gift from God” like he does (v7), to cope without sex. Interestingly, some commentators think he was once married but now widowed, so he would understand some of the pressure of your journey. Clearly, the danger of remarrying for this reason is that we fall too fast into a relationship without good foundations, which can easily result in sexual or relational problems in the future. The problem is not resolved, just deferred. The life journey of character development has a way of repeating circles until we master them.

You are right that some Christians do not validate certain divorces if they judge that they did not fit their understanding of the biblical definitions allowing for divorce. However, marriage is not just before God, it is also a legal and societal state. Divorce creates a legal severing of the marriage covenant, rendering us free and without rights to that person. That means you no longer have privileges before God of sexual unity with your ex-wife. Even if you could justify some license for this (an eloquent mind can usually argue anything), I would suggest that from a psychological angle, sex without quality relationship and holistic connection would be damaging… including damaging to your sex life.

I wonder if you are confusing your sex drive with your longing for intimacy. The pressure of your sex drive can usually be managed either through masturbation, or replacement and avoidance approaches, which can effectively include exercise and diversion strategies. But, of course, this will leave your hunger for intimacy unsatisfied. Intimacy is going to come from a place of much more investment and is best mined from a variety of sources: spiritual and human. Our need for intimacy is something that alongside meaningful human relationships can also be sourced from within ourselves, as we learn the art of selfpossession and find sources of self-nurturing. Truth is, until we learn this art, we are a bottomless pit that no one else can satisfy anyway.

I offer these provocations not in pretence of an answer to your pain, as the truth is that it is incredibly hard to live without this accustomed outlet. I wonder if the most courageous answer with the greatest power to lead to your freedom will be to accept that there is no ultimate answer to the question you have written me. I believe we all suffer in different ways; that is integral to the human condition. The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3) presents a vivid image, with a profound philosophy: that there often is not a way out of our problems. What we do have are options of how we relate to our challenges. We can interpret our suffering as a torment, or we can call out to God and dig into our personality resources to access strength and resourcefulness. The experience of our suffering will be defined by our relationship to it. My intention in saying this is not to be unsympathetic or harsh, but in avoiding trite ‘answers’ to release some truth.