When I Started Disliking Steve Harvey...

I’ve only taken two international trips in my life. I made it to Egypt in 2009 with my fabulous rock star cousin who travels all the time. However, I came back disliking Tyra Banks because of an episode where she interviewed T.I. She called him an “idiot savant,” but meant it as a compliment. Obviously she didn’t know the meaning of the term and I was impressed with the way T.I. handled the situation. But yeah, I came back to the States with a decreased fondness of the former supermodel. So in 2010, I again traveled with my uber fab cousin and met her in Shanghai. I didn’t realize that I would again return home disliking another American figure.

While on the 13-hour flight to China, I slept, watched movies, and read magazines. I ended up buying lots of magazines for the flight, including Essence. One fun thing to do in Shanghai is to get clothes made, so I picked up Vogue and In Style to make sure I got plenty of ideas. Anyway, back to Essence. I’m a social worker and therapist, so I always find it interesting to read relationship columns from those not trained in my profession. That’s not to say they don’t give great advice, but sometimes, they can really miss the mark. Well…in my opinion anyway.

Steve Harvey has become a “relationship guru.” With his books “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” and “Straight Talk, No Chaser,” he’s found acclaim with many looking for ways to get and keep men. His advice seems practical and has some validity. However, the problem in giving advice based on your own personal experience is just that; it’s your personal experience. It may not be completely applicable to the situations and lives of others. Anywho, Mr. Harvey has a relationship column in Essence where readers send their questions and he answers them with his sage advice.

So I’m reading his column and a woman asks a valid question. She’s been married for a few years but her husband has recently put on some weight. She’s starting to find him less attractive and asked what she should do to encourage her mate to lose weight. Steve Harvey’s reply: cut him off. Yep, stop having sex with him. He said that sex is that language in which men are fluent and she should cease communication so to speak. …er, act. I immediately put down the magazine and didn’t pick it back up until I packed to leave.

There are a few things that perturbed me about this piece of advice, but let’s go to the biggest thing. YOU SHOULD NEVER USE SEX AS A WEAPON. Yep, caps, bold print, italicized, all o’ dat. YOU SHOULD NEVER USE SEX AS A WEAPON. Never. Why? For starters, because it’s mean. Okay, I’m sure we need something more than my idea of what’s mean, so let’s go to the Word.

I Corinthians 7 gives us some interesting advice on sex in marriage. Paul wrote this letter to a struggling church in Corinth, which was a city not known for its virtue. Let’s just say that Corinth was a like cross between Bourbon Street and Las Vegas. So really, it shouldn’t have been a big surprise that after Paul leaves the church he plants there, news travels about the problems they’re having. This inspires him to write one of his longest letters that’s included in the canonical Bible, which subsequently covers a variety of topics. Anyway, going back to chapter seven. Here he speaks specifically to married folks by giving them instructions about sex. In verses 3-5, Paul explains that husbands and wives should fulfill their marital duties to each other and only abstain from sex when it’s mutually agreed upon and only for the purpose of fasting. He doesn’t say anything about “cutting someone off” to help them lose weight. In fact, in verse 4, he proclaims that a wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband and vice versa. So does that mean no matter how much your husband/wife makes you mad, you can’t just cut ‘em off? Yep. Now don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe the Father wants you to put yourself in a situation where you’ll be objectified, abused, or used. However, in a generally healthy marriage, this chapter tells us that you shouldn’t withhold sex as a means to control the behavior (or weight) of your spouse.

So what are our options? I believe that women have a special anointing, the power of persuasion (I elaborated about this in The Power of the Nag in the Samson series). But seriously, what are some things she could do encourage weight loss? What about talking to him? Yep, the direct approach. Kinda different, huh? I tell you, though, it works. It’s not necessary to be abrasive, but you can be lovingly honest. What about suggesting that you work out together? Hey, what about cooking healthy meals together? Cooking together might prompt…cooking together. So could working out. When you spend time with each other, you have the opportunity to reignite those sparks that started the fire in the first place. However, if either mate decides to cease sexual communication, you decrease the opportunities for oxytocin and other love brain chemicals to flow and attraction may continue to wane.

Really, I think the advice given in Essence was irresponsible. But then again, it’s advice. It’s not therapy. It’s not theology. It’s one man’s opinion on what a woman should do to spur the weight loss of her husband. Will his advice work? I highly doubt it. Actually, I think it’s a recipe for disaster. I just hope that the woman who sought the advice is lead to read I Corinthians 7 and decides to follow that instead of Mr. Steve Harvey.

Scriptural Reference:
I Corinthians 7: 1-6 (MSG) Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations? Certainly—but only within a certain context. It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting—but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. I’m not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence—only providing my best counsel if you should choose them.