I’ve spent the last few years trying to get better insight into the mind of a spouse who desires less sex. Why? Because I’m married to one, and one of my goals in life is to make her feel known and loved. Unfortunately, the more I learn the more I realize just how bad a job I do.
It’s sort of like in Christianity, where the more you grow, the more you realize just how sinful you are. You start realizing that avoiding sin is not just about not killing, stealing, lying, etc., that the law is not an exhaustive list of what’s right and wrong. The closer you get to God, the more you realize how often you hurt Him.
This journey to know my wife has been similar. At first, I’ll admit, my intentions were not quite so noble. I think I spent a lot of time trying to simply get more sex. I was trying to soothe the part of my life that hurt the most.
To be honest, I’m not sure I had the willpower to have a less selfish goal at the time. But as I’ve grown, and my wife has taken leaps and bounds to better meet my needs, I constantly learn new things that make me realize I’ve not been making it easy for her. Often, I’m a stumbling block to my wife trying to love me better. This, in turn, causes her stress and anxiety because she feels she should be doing better. I make it hard to love me. I make it work to have sex with me. Not only is it counterproductive in a selfish sense, but also it hurts her, which is the last thing I want to do.
So, I wanted to share some things that I think are common to a lot of couples in a similar dynamic. Some of these will be better suited to the stereotypical husband/wife dynamic, but others will be more gender neutral.
Be careful with the words you use to describe your spouse
I’ve always disliked the terms “high-drive” and “low-drive”. They’re not great descriptors. As well, “low-drive” I think sounds insulting. My wife, being generally classified as “low-drive” doesn’t like it either. It makes it sound like there is something wrong with her, when in fact there isn’t. It’s just the way she is.
So, when you call your spouse “low-drive”, or someone else refers to them that way, they start to internalize it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. They believe and adopt the role.
It also creates another negative tie to sex. Them being “low-drive” becomes associated with sex, so it’s a more difficult topic to discuss, because it brings to mind this perception of being inadequate.
So, I’m going to try and never refer to my wife, or anyone else, as low-drive again. I’ve, unfortunately, spent years, and written countless articles doing so already. The typical terms others use aren’t much better, such as sexual distancer or low libido. The best I’ve found (mixing and matching from a couple researchers in the field) are:
Sexual pursuer – the one who tends to pursue by default, who spontaneously desires sex more often.
Sexual responder – the one who tends to take a more receptive role when initiating sex, for whatever reason.
I’m going to try and work out some more robust definitions later, but so far I like them better.
The point is, we have to be careful with the roles we ascribe to people, especially our spouses. If we continue to call them things like “low-drive”, “selfish”, “abuser”, “lazy”, or a host of other things, they may begin to internalize and believe they can’t change. It makes it harder for them to change certain behaviours. They are not those things. They’re just acting out behaviours. Behaviours can change much easier than a character. It’s also the first step to changing a character: Start behaving the way the character you want to have would.
Instead of saying they’re “low-drive” or whatever, start praising and pointing out when they do the behaviours you like. Praise them for being sexy, for initiating, for responding positively. Don’t box them in a negative role.
Be careful what you say when sex is over
After sex, we sexual pursuers who desire sex more, tend to say something like:
I can’t wait to do that again.
We should do that again tomorrow.
How about round two?
When can have this kind of fun again?
We should do this more often.
While we’re trying to express how much we enjoyed it and, frankly are a little depressed, dismayed or anxious that we now likely have to wait a while to experience that closeness again, we inadvertently send the message that we aren’t satisfied. As a result, many sexual responder spouses end up feeling that they’re not good enough, particularly if they already have anxiety at not having as strong a desire to have sex as their spouse.
While we hope it to be encouraging, it tends to instead have the opposite effect. Our spouse ends the sexual experience with a negative feeling. The next time sex is initiated, that is often the feeling they remember. While they often know that sex is something that connects you two, is important, and even feels good, those thoughts are masked by the anxiety and worry about whether or not they’ll be good enough this time that their spouse will actually feel satisfied.
For many sexual responders, it takes mental work to shift gears and get into the right headspace to be able to enjoy sex. If they then get the impression at the end that their spouse feels the sex wasn’t good enough, then that translates into a lot of work that resulted in failure in their part.
So, as sexual pursuers, we need to be very careful about what we say after sex. Something as simple as “That was amazing!” is far better than “That was so good, I can’t wait to do it again!”
You see, sexual pursuers create pressure to have sex. Yes, sometimes that is a bad sort of pressure, but generally not. I just mean, they create the impetus to have sex. The sexual responder, then, is looking to release that pressure. If they go through the trouble of relieving that pressure, only to find out the pressure is still there, then they feel they’ve failed. They haven’t done their job. It becomes a futile exercise.
So, given that perspective, is it any wonder some responders react negatively to initiation? It’s not that they’re rejecting their spouse, or sex, but rather trying to protect themselves from feeling like a failure.
Don’t ask if they want to have sex
Most sexual responders don’t feel a desire to have sex without some sort of pressure from their spouse. They don’t often just suddenly feel like having sex.
For many, they don’t feel aroused until after sex has been initiated. That’s one reason why massages work so well, it’s sexual without being intercourse, so it helps give them time to respond.
The problem many sexual pursuers make is asking if they’re “in the mood”, or if they “want to” have sex. In short, the answer is almost always “no”. For someone who experiences almost exclusively responsive desire, often the closest they get, outside of an already sexual context, is feeling willing to be aroused. Asking if they want to have sex kicks off a pattern of thought like:
Am I in the mood? No. Why aren’t I? Something is wrong with me. I’m not enough for my spouse. I’m such a disappointment…
Even if they were willing to be aroused before you asked, you’ve just pushed them further away from being willing. Now they’re actively not up for sex because they’re dealing with anxiety, depression and pity which you invoked by your question.
Obviously this is less than ideal.
So, what’s the alternative? There are a few:
Tell them what you want instead of asking what they want
I know this goes against everything were taught in polite society, but the truth is, if you want something, ask for it. Ideally, your spouse wants to make you happy. Trying to negotiate what you want by asking what they want turns sex into a transaction. Trying to make it seem like your doing it for them is manipulation.
Initiate a precursor to sex
Offer something like a massage instead. Now, this can be manipulative as well. It depends on the situation. If they’re exhausted and you offer a massage to help them sleep, then try to turn it into sex, that’s manipulation. If they can’t switch gears, or are stressed, and you offer a massage that turns sexual and they’re content to be lead that way, then that’s helping them out.
This only works in some dynamics, though usually people are surprised it works in theirs. There are a great many spouses who much prefer not to be asked at all. Not to have a chance to say no. Typically this applies to wives. Our culture has done such a good job of teaching them that they should reject their husband’s advances that it’s easier simply to have the opportunity removed. I think this is why rape continues to be high on the common list of women’s fantasies. It’s why the 50 Shades of Grey erotic stories swept through the women in churches as well as the general public. It solves the problem of wanting to feel desired, pursued, aroused and sexual ecstasy without the guilt and shame of admitting that deep down they want to feel those things. Just a warning though: a hard no still means no. This isn’t permission or an excuse to rape your spouse or force them against their will.
Don’t expect them to initiate
Expecting a sexual responder to initiate regularly, or getting upset that you have to do the bulk, or even all, of the initiating is futile.
You are more interested in sex than they are. Get over it. As a result, you’re going to do the bulk, or all of the initiating, depending on where you both sit on your respective spectrums. Some will, because they’re closer to being a pursuer than others. Or because they’re particularly generous or mindful of it. But you shouldn’t expect your spouse to be there if they’re not there. To do so just puts a negative sort of pressure on sex that will ultimately result in them stamping out the thought of initiating if it does occur to them.
If they initiate, praise them for it, thank them, and accept it graciously. But if they don’t, just accept that they’re not at a place yet where it occurs to them.
For the sexual responders who are reading this: If you are able to bless your spouse by initiating, please do so. For them, and for yourself. Set a calendar reminder if it never occurs to you. You’d be amazed at the difference it will make to your marriage. There are lots of reasons why you should initiate, even if your spouse shouldn’t expect it.
Don’t limit the reasons or type of sex they offer
The last item I want to touch on today is that I often get the complaint from the sexual pursuers that even when their spouse initiates, it’s not the way they want or for the reasons they want. I’ve made this same complaint myself.
We often have the audacity to think that the way we feel about sex is the only proper way. We feel that because we want to have sex out of sexual desire, or a deep need, that if they come to us desiring to have sex “because it’s been a while and you seem to need it” isn’t a good enough reason. Worse, we sometimes flat out say “that’s not good enough” or something to that effect.
The truth is, if a sexual responder initiates in any way (provided it’s not so subtle as can be easily missed), then that should be not only accepted, but appreciated and praised. Otherwise, what happens is that they step out of their comfort zone to initiate, and then feel punished because they didn’t do it right. This leads back to not feeling good enough and will likely reduce any potential initiations in the future.
I’ve learned not to push for my wife to be “in the mood” before initiating, because, well, if I waited for that, it’s not likely to happen without abstaining from sex for a month or two.
However, I still have trouble accepting “just for me” sex. Truth is, I’m a giver more than a receiver. I’m not good at receiving. It’s something I’ve always struggled with. I think it’s a pride issue. I don’t accept gifts, compliments or offers for help well. I just never learned to. I’m also bad at asking for help. But I’m trying to get better at this.
This translates into our sexual relationship as well. When we have sex, and my wife makes it clear she’s more interested in me getting an orgasm than her, I have trouble accepting that. I want it to be for both of us, because then I don’t feel guilty for making her have sex and getting nothing out of it. Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s not even equitable. I’m such a hypocrite at this, that I’ve been fine with having sex “just for her” just not “just for me”.
For years, my wife has said that she’s a bit of a selfish lover, but the truth is, I’ve not only enabled that, I’ve contributed to that balance. She’s not really selfish. I’m overly “generous” (though not truly generous I guess) due to my own insecurities.
The truth is, I want to have a relationship where I can ask for “just for me” sex, or her offer it, and visa-versa. I think we should be comfortable enough to ask for that sort of “help”. Or to “use” each other like that. I know “use” sounds bad, but I don’t know how else to say it. I think spouses should be there for each other to help deal with pent up sexual urges, desires, temptations, or whatever, and limiting sex to only a two-way exchange limits our ability to lean on and accept our spouse from giving this to us.
So, I’m going to try and be better at this, knowing I’ve likely made it quite difficult to change that dynamic due to years of wanting every exchange to be either equitable, or weighted in my wife’s favour.
Don’t look the gift-horse in the mouth.
For others, I know they’ll turn down sex, because it’s not the way they want it. For example, their spouse will offer oral or manual sex instead of intercourse, because it’s quicker, or easier, or less painful, or whatever. If it’s every time, that might be an issue, but when it’s once in awhile, or during a difficult season, why reject their gift simply because it’s not what you prefer? Others get upset, because their spouse offers a particular position, when they want something else.
The classic case of this is a wife offering missionary, when they want woman-on-top. If she’s tired and just trying to make herself available, being on the bottom is far different than being on top and doing all the work.
The other scenario that comes up a lot is a spouse offering a quicky when the other wants “gourmet sex”. It’s quite possible they just don’t have the energy for that. Again, if it’s every time, that becomes an issue, but once in a while, or even for a season, it’s not worth rejecting them.
That’s like getting a birthday present and sending it back because it’s the wrong brand. It’s not only inconsiderate, it’s also pretty counterproductive. I mean, if you think they’re going to buy you a gift again, you’re dreaming. Likewise with sex, if you turn down their offer, there’s a good chance they won’t offer it again for a while, if ever.
Sexual pursuers often make the bed they’re having trouble getting their spouse to have sex in
I know I have contributed to the struggles in our sexual relationship. I hope by sharing some of the ways that I’ve added to our dynamic that you might recognize some of your own in your marriage. If you’re a sexual pursuer, maybe you do some of these too and need to change your behaviours. If you’re a sexual responder, then maybe you’ll recognize some things that are contributing to your struggles to respond positively.
What I don’t want is this to be pointed at as proof that it’s all the sexual pursuers fault. This is only one side of the equation. The marriage community often harps on the “low-drive” spouse, pointing at them as the source of the issues, but the truth is, generally both sides have plenty of responsibility for what’s going on. Anyone who thinks otherwise is likely fooling themselves.
What about you? What can you change that’s contributing to the struggles in your dynamic?
40 thoughts on “Are you sabotaging your sex life like I do?”
I found this article very informative but in all honesty I felt to share that the one thing that confused me is the part that condones just accepting if your spouse only initiated bc of a basic need instead of for closeness .. compare it to a booty call or scratching an itch would be the worldly terminology ..seeking your spouse to only satisfy a built up need and for no other reason is using someone whether married or not ..and I don’t think should be celebrated ..a spouse throwing some crumbs bc of an itch is not going to grow a marriage anymore than the pursuaer making the responder feel “not enough” .. doing that would make the pursuer feel like “Is this the only time I am enough” … ?
I’m curious why you think that. If my spouse comes to me asking me to scratch a literal itch, should I not scratch it for them? What’s the difference if it’s a sexual itch?
Now, if the only time I’m touching my spouse is because they asked me to scratch an itch, that’s an issue. Likewise, I think if the only time you are having sex is to appease a physical desire, that’s an issue as well. But, why can’t I be there for my spouse if they felt a desire? Does not 1 Cor 7.5 tell us not to deprive our spouse or else sexual temptation will take hold? Do our bodies not belong to one another? Personally, I can’t think of a biblical reference to support your position. But, I’d love to hear if it you have one.
I think we agree bc I am seeing in that way ..only touching when scratching an itch .. if a spouse is constantly denying or initiating so that they maintain all the power in the bedroom and the only time sexual intimacy is occurring is when they have an itch that does not seem healthy. I agree we should freely be able to come to each other to meet each others needs even when it is a physical need … but when it’s only happening when the one spouse has this pent up physical need that’s not a healthy marital sex life ..
I think ideally, they should be initiating and having sex often enough that that pent up physical need is never felt, but that’s an ideal situation, which rarely happens in life. Especially in this day and age where we have so much busyness and misplaced priorities. Given the context, I think it would be perfect healthy to have sex every time there’s a pent up physical need. That would still be more than most couples experience. Maybe not ideal, but no one gets ideal. Not for long anyways.
I agree. When one spouse “obliges” because the other wants sex, in my experience, no matter how hard they may try, it always comes off feeling like you are being “thrown a bone”, a “consolation prize” (“charity sex”). And when it’s over, you feel used, unloved, and the whole sense of satisfaction and intimacy is ruined.
Not “always”. It depends on the attitudes of each spouse.
If the spouse offering sex because the other wants it is offering it because they love their spouse and they truly want to see them happy, then it’s a gift, and should be accepted as such. It’s not pity or being “thrown a bone”. It’s a loving gesture.
Likewise, if the receiving spouse can accept it as a gift, with humility and appreciation, then there’s no issue. However, we are often too prideful. We want them to initiate in a way that makes us feel like we’re desirable.
We put too much focus on this need to control our spouse by making them feel they can’t not have us, rather than accepting that they might give us a gift out of love, rather than compulsion.
So wanting my spouse to desire me in a genuine way is prideful ?
Yeah, I definitely think so. Mostly because I do the same thing. I recognize it in myself.
For myself, I tend to think the way I do things is best. Therefore, she should do things the way I do them.
I also don’t really like the control me desiring her has over me, so I want to sometimes feel those roles reversed, or at least balanced, so I have more power in that dynamic.
Took me a long time to realize that’s what was going on, but ultimately, pride is the source of it.
I strongly disagree. Years ago my wife of 35 years and I had a long discussion about sex. We agreed to twice a week. We seldom fall short and often exceed our goal. I know my wife has a lower drive than me, but she ALWAYS shows enthusiasm in our intimacy. We often have foreplay and then she blesses me with oral sex (always her choice). I know she does not always feel 100% up for it, but it never shows. She knows it is important for me and our marriage.
Your honesty and effort to understand the sexual dynamics in your relationship will be very helpful to others. You did a good job of capturing the thoughts and reactions of a wife who is a sexual responder.
Thanks Chris 🙂
I find myself in many of your words Jay. A situation occurred just this morning where I made a similar mistake. As you said, my responder wife has areas she can improve, but that does not preclude me from working on my end of the deal. So I appreciate your thoughts here and am thinking about how to change.
Our recurring issue comes when I initiate, she rejects in one way or another then comes back to me when things are more of her preference later. I’ve tried to tell her over and over how it would be so much better if she could try to respond better the first time, but nothing changes. The thing is she has told me many times she wants me to be confident, but the squelches that every time I try. So then I have a hard time accepting her and end up making her feel like she can never do it right. It’s a control issue, or sure seems that way.
Yeah, I recognize that dynamic. There are two things you can try that I can think of:
1. Change how you initiate. Instead of trying to initiate for right then, initiate by letting her know you’re in the mood and asking her to let you know when it’s a good time.
2. Don’t accept “no”, unless it’s a hard “no”. Sometimes women, consciously or not, put up obstacles to push you to be more aggressive. If you initiate too timidly, she’ll say no, either hoping you’ll back off, or push through and be more confident and aggressive. Doesn’t work on every wife, but it does work on a lot of them. Of course, if they gives a flat out “no, stop”, then you stop. That is, unless she’s told you another time that she doesn’t want you to stop, but then you should start to think about safe-words.
Really great insight Jay Dee. Super valuable info here.
Glad you liked it 🙂
I get a little confused with the terms because even though my hubby has a higher drive than I do, I still initiate nearly always. I think our dynamics are somewhat similar to yours, where my hubby doesn’t ever want it to just be for him, and the surest way to make sure is to wait for me to come to him. For the most part, that’s fine since I do initiate often enough, though I would love a little more pursuit. Sometimes I wonder how often we would have sex if I didn’t initiate, but I don’t think it would be very often.
That said, while I hate the term “to use” one another very much, if my husband were willing to be vulnerable enough to say that he needs me “to scratch that itch,” I find that extremely appealing, oddly enough. To me it says that he trusts me that I will meet that need. And I genuinely want to! I genuinely want to be enough. So I agree with what you’ve said here about not unintentionally communicating to your spouse that they aren’t enough. At the same time, give me the chance to be enough. How can I know what he needs if he doesn’t tell me? The occasional “I just need a little something to get me through til we can be together again” would be an honor. Show me you trust me. And I promise to be trustworthy.
I encourage you to tell him exactly what you said here. I’ve been in this similar situation with my wife also. I feel like I have to wait for her, and it’s because I know she doesn’t really want sex for herself. But it f she were to present herself as you did here, it would feel differently.
Yeah, they don’t exactly replace “high-drive” and “low-drive”. They’re a little different. A pursuer can be the low-drive spouse. But, in your case, it sounds like you’re still responding. You’re initiating because of the pressure (not in a bad way) that he creates by being “high-drive”.
As for him not initiating, that may be something he wants to work on. Often it’s a sign either of pride (I shouldn’t / don’t want to ask for it, I want her to want me enough to initiate), not feeling safe (worried if he initiates you’ll reject him), or not feeling worthy (they don’t really want to have sex with me, so I shouldn’t ask).
And I agree, “use” has a bad connotation in our society, (sort of like submit) but I’m perfectly willing to be used by my spouse. I don’t find it offensive if I offer it willingly. I think we’re here to support each other in whatever we need.
Some of it may be a consideration thing; we have four young kids right now, the youngest of which is 10 months and breastfeeding. He says he doesn’t want to bother me, but I wish I knew how to get through to him that I like sex—it is NOT a bother to me. Or that if I honestly can’t get there, I’d be honored to connect sexually in other ways.
But maybe even him being considerate is still fear of rejection/not feeling worthy in disguise? (Probably subconscious on his part?) We’ve had one 4-month dry spell in our 12 year marriage when I was being treated for postpartum depression 7 years ago, and while it’s never happened since and we’ve talked about it a lot, I still feel like things have never been the same. Is that trust lost forever? Or is there hope that this will maybe improve when we are out of the littlest years if I continue to show I am “trustworthy?”
I think you should take what you wrote here and show it to your husband. Speaking from my own standpoint, 100% of the time I have to wait until my wife initiates sex, because every and any time I try, the answer is always “no”. It may have been 2 days, 2 hours, or 2 weeks since we last had sex. It can be a nice quiet day with no kids around. I can try initiating with a massage, or kissing, or (more aggressive) foreplay or (even MORE aggressive) some genital teasing… does… not… matter. Unless it’s her idea, the answer is always “no”.
I’m not saying that YOU do this. But you might be surprised to learn that this is how your husband feels. It’s also possible that you have rejected him more times than you think, or that certain crucial times when you rejected him really hurt his feelings and now he carries that with him all the time. Nobody likes to “offer” when they feel unwelcome.
The horrid part of this is that even if you do try to initiate sex because you know it will please him, if he is carrying this feeling that he cannot be the aggressor, he will feel unloved.
I think its time women got over this nonsense. Sex should never be used as a reward or (the lack of) as a punishment – it should be given as a right. Women, you are a help to your husband (Gen. 3:16) and he has authority over you. He also has authority over your body (1 Corinthians 7:3–5). That’s your God-given role. God has given him a need for femininity, and you are the only provision God has made for his needs to be met without sin.
On your wedding day, when you promised to love him until death separates you, you weren’t promising to have romantic feelings for him all your life. You were promising to always act towards him according to love. That includes meeting his needs. That’s your job. That’s what you promised. That’s what love is. You have given your body to him. (Of course, he is required to do the same for you.)
Now, in the world, a man asks you for a date. He brings you flowers, buys you a meal, takes you to see a movie, then takes you home. There is an unspoken expectation that if he gives you a good evening the evening will culminate in sex. He has to get you in the mood using foreplay. The woman wields the power as to whether he gets sex or not – or how many dates he has to take her out on before he gets sex.
Not so in marriage. He has a God-given need – he has built up a reservoir of sperm which needs to be released. That can be done through sex with his wife, or masturbation, or a wet dream which will probably be an unpleasant experience for him. The Bible says that if the man burns, he should marry. The obvious inference is that if he is married, he won’t have to burn (with the need for sexual release).
That’s the wife’s job. Meet his need – that’s what “love” is. Refusing to meet his need is a refusal to love him, and creates the situation where she is exercising control over him, which she is not to do. Now he should not have to wine and dine you, or perform, to win your favourable response. He needs sex – give him sex. And in those quiet moments after orgasm, he is bonding to his wife more and more, and as the wife continually meets his needs over the years, without fuss, that relationship deepens. He will thank God for a faithful wife who loves him and meets his needs.
Frankly, unless she is ill or there is another pressing reason, the wife has no right to say “no” to her husband.
Of course, he shouldn’t be a pig and treat her badly – he is to honour her and love her as Christ loved the church. This does not negate her responsibilities to her husband, however.
I think I’m going to write a post in response to this. There’s a mentality here that I get a lot of people have that I want to address. Stay tuned.
I’m… looking forward to that response. I find some truth here and some partial truths here, but overall communicated in a way that does not do justice to God’s good design for the depth of sexual intimacy. My husband has never presented sex to me in this way—sex means so much more to him than this—and I’m grateful, because this would be the surest way to make me never want sex again. You are better with words, Jay, so I will be looking forward to your thoughtful response, at your convenience.
I think Ruth over at Awaken Love has written a post called something like “The Bad Plan of Duty Sex” that comes to mind, and Sheila Wray Gregoire has talked about this mindset a lot. (Both of them being very pro-frequent sex in marriage, of course.) I would love to hear your contribution.
The “don’t limit reason” space is where I find myself most often struggling. “Chore sex” is a big deal IMO. No matter how hard I try, it is always distasteful. With my sexual responder wife, it’s that way to some extent a majority of the time. She’s trying to work on it, but it’s not natural for her. So it most always has that flavor of chore sex. And I have a difficult time accepting it. Like you, I would classify myself a giver. And give because I want to. I give because I enjoy the giving. So when I give, I want to make sure the receiver knows I am enjoying it. I don’t act like its a chore. If I did it would take away from the gift and make the receiver feel bad. But that is hard for a “responder” to navigate with sex. I think it’s because sex is such a deeply internal emotionally charged thing. It carries so much more meaning than common tasks or simple gestures. We all know when the other really wants to be there and when they’d rather be dozing something else.
I get your words and understand what you’re trying to say. But in the end, it really is about a disparity in the level of sexual desire. New names or descriptions won’t change that. No different than an unequal desire to run marathons. I don’t want to. I have no interest in trying to like them. You can’t make me want to. But the difference of whether or not I like to run marathons has absolutely no bearing on the happiness within marriage nor is it the connective glue God designed to bond spouses together. Sex is. What inevitably has to happen is the couple either metricultes to the lowest common denominator, or they separate – If not physically, then emotionally. Very seldom do you find the one with lesser desire actually finding or manufacturing increased desire. So while I find myself in many of your words, I still am lost for a solution. The only one that makes logical sense is for the one with the more desire to pursue sex must decide to pursue less – whether that be less quantity, less quality or whatever. Because the one who is the “responder” can still only respond with what’s inside them, they can’t manufacture more upon a whim. If you revisit your thoughts – which I agree with btw – I think you’ll see this to be true. Every one is focused on lowering the pursuing one’s expectations down to meet the other. I think that is ultimately the only way a compromise will ever occur in this area – but it is a hard pill to swallow.
Oh, I disagree. This entire post was how I do limit sex, and how I’m trying to stop. My natural responses were what was lowering her response. If I:
1) Change my terms
2) Watch how I thank her for sex
3) Don’t beg for sex
4) Be clear about what I want
5) Accept whatever they are up for
Then we get far more sex. Her capacity for responding goes up. Because responding is not a drive. It’s a response. There’s not a limit to how much she can respond. That ceiling exists with what she’s likely to initiate with out of the blue.
We’ve gone from a sexless marriage to sex every day, and now down to 2-3 times a week, and she hopes it will go up again. Her drive has nothing to do with the changes. It’s been static the entire time.
So, no, I don’t believe you have to drop down to the lowest common denominator. I don’t believe sexual desire is the decider in how much sex someone has. Rather, I think we sexual pursuers need to “up our game” as it were to make it easier for them to respond, and I think responders have some work to do as well to allow themselves to be lead into sexual activities more often.
But, I think a mentality of “the lowest common denominator wins” will definitely lead to that outcome.
Thank you for sharing your heart here. It’s stands out in contrast to the comment above. To me the danger in presenting sex in the way the commenter does above—where sex is merely a duty—is that it is going to produce merely duty sex. And from what I hear you saying here (and have heard from many higher drive spouses), mere duty sex does not meet the *actual* deeper need. So while I agree on a very basic level that sex ought to be a given in marriage (so in that sense, a duty), we cannot stop there, because it is precisely that reductionist teaching that is hindering marriages from having a sexually satisfying relationship. The healthier and more wholistic the view of sex of the responder, the easier it is to respond—wholeheartedly.
I pray that God will continue to open your wife’s eyes to the full beauty of His design for sex within marriage, and how God designed sex for her too.
Well thought out article and 5 main points above. Good approach and evolution of terms and communication. This happy wife agrees!
Wow, you have almost perfectly described the dynamics of our sexual relationship! Thank you so much for your thoughts.
I frequently struggle with trying to balance my expectations and behaviors against encouraging and pushing for my wife to grow sexually. My wife is generally willing and will initiate, but she struggles to display any real interest, enthusiasm, or desire. This results in satisfying my physical needs but leaves me feeling as though it is always quickies and duty sex. She would prefer me to do as you described and take it whenever I want it. No doubt that leaves her feeling truly desired and removes pressure and expectations on her end. That’s fine occasionally, but leaves me feeling unfulfilled and somewhat unloved in the long run.
The simple fix is for us to find the elusive magic sexual awakening button that I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere. I think that’s why much of the focus is on “fixing” the low interest or low drive spouse. In otherwise solid marriages we see example after example described where the marriage becomes amazing when the low drive spouse finds and grows their sexuality.
I love this article. It gives great insight into the importance of appreciating each other’s God given differences. It also helps the initiator to understand that the way they approach and handle things has a huge impact.Thank for being so honest about what you have learned.
I’m going to take these points on board although I do get fed up of it always being the HD/pursuer spouse always having to make changes try to understand or scale back Why can’t anyone write an article for LD/responder spouses to get them to change their behaviour? We are in a better place now but I think my husband could try a little more but hey at least I’m just thirsty now whereas before I was starving.
I’m not saying that sexual responders don’t have work to do. It just wasn’t the point of this post. I’ve also never been in the reversed roles, so it’s a little harder for me to share my experiences there. However, there are many Christian bloggers writing from the low-desire wife’s perspective.
I’m inclined to leave a comment as this is an unusually well crafted article! I share your opinion that we need more ‘animalic’ sex, and to be more assertive sometimes. What my wife and I like to do to get into the mood is to share erotic stories. Usually I send her a story randomly during the day, that I know will make her hot, like this here REDACTED and once we get home we are both ready for it. One more thing, being passive or a sub doesn’t mean weakness.It actually needs a lot of strength to admit to enjoy being dominated.
I removed the link to the pornographic material as we don’t condone using porn. However, if you write a story for your spouse and send it to them, I think that’s a great idea.
I’m struggling to wrap my head around how anybody could hear “I can’t wait to do that again” and somehow believe that equates to “you aren’t good enough” or “I’m not satisfied”. You have got to be trying really hard to take offense to arrive at that conclusion.
If my wife makes a new recipie for dinner and asks whether I liked it, replying with “That was amazing!” is a much weaker response than, “That was so good. I can’t wait for you to make it again.”
Having to constantly edit my enthusiastic response to great sex, to ensure there is no way my wife could possibly twist my words into some way that she can feel bad about it, is beyond ridiculous. If she’s that determined to feel bad about herself and her sexuality, she needs to get some help. Seriously.
I can understand how it’s hard to wrap your head around it if you’re starting with the assumption that she’s playing mind games with you.
I think this too .. I get that intent matters and while the intent is not to play games that is essentially what’s happening .. to be so hypersensitive that even positive praise is taken to offense will make the other person walk on egg shells whether intended or not .. I am responsible for my thoughts and actions that is difficult as it is but to add to it trying monitor it in light of assuming I can read my spouses mind or how they may react or interpret what I say or how I act is a game …. I understand how saying I can’t wait to do that again can create anxiety for someone who is not wanting to do it again .. but IMO that in itself is a problem .. how does one get married with not an inkling if understanding that sex sort of is gonna happen and should happen often .. frequency issues imo are I want it two time a week he wants it four times not I want it twice a week and they want it once every three months .. only desiring your spouse when you can biologically not deny your need for sex is using someone .. we were meant to connect on a deeper level in marriage through sex it is supposed to create oneness emotionally spiritually and physically ..it is not just for an orgasm .. so seeking out your spouse to only scratch an itch is um not gonna lead to that ..showing no interest in that closeness isn’t gonna lead to that .. it’s a mutual obligation and responsibility to invest in ones relationship in that manner and imo it’s avgiven if you chose marriage
I’m not sure about that. I agree, in many marriages, having sex just to get an orgasm could be detrimental, but I don’t think it should be ideally. I’m working on a post to flesh this idea out a bit more.
Is there any scenario where a man might have a responsive sex drive?
Definitely. It’s rarer, but becomes more common as you get older.
After 30+ years of marriage, we ended up in a near sexless marriage. We finally had a long talk about sex. We talked about how much it hurts to be rejected and how sex is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. We now have sex scheduled for weekend mornings before the kids get up. In the last year, we have only missed a few mornings, and we have had a few unplanned episodes. She is always enthusiastic and smiling. Often after snuggly and light foreplay, she provides me a loving gift of oral sex. She may not be in the mood, but she now understands how important sex is for our marriage, and how much closer we have become. I wish we had the talk sooner, but being able to count on twice weekly sex has taken so much stress away. I don’t initiate often so I don’t worry about rejection. We both initiate if that makes sense. At age 59, we are having the best sex of our marriage. And we snuggle often because we feel so much closer.