I get a lot of emails from spouses. I get to read about a lot of marriages in those emails. I get to read about how spouses react, how they think, their struggles, their concerns, their hopes, their fears. One of the big struggles I see is in how to be authentic with your spouse. The specific example I’m thinking of comes up particularly when there is a large difference in sex drives.
A lot of men, and no small number of women, write me saying that they’re going to give up on telling their spouse they want sex. The topic of sex always causes fights, arguments, strain or stress in the marriage, so they think it’s better just to not share. Instead, they want to focus on needing sex less. Sometimes they go so far as to want to ask God to take away their sex drive, but I think that’s unwise. But, I think there is wisdom in needing sex to keep you content.
Part of the Christian walk is learning to be content with less. Ideally we should learn to be content at all times and in all circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:12
We should be striving to lean more on God and less on our spouse for our contentment. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t achieved that yet. For some that might mean learning to want sex less, especially if you use sex in order to escape from daily life, or as a means of validation of self. If you learn to lean on God more, you may find that your desire is not as strong…but it will be more healthy. Others might find that leaning on God more actually makes them want sex more often, because it will reduce their stress and stress counteracts libido.
But, in the mean time, while we work on leaning on God more, how do we deal with disappointments when it comes to sexual frequency? Do we pretend that we’ve arrived at that place where we can be content regardless? I don’t think so. I think to do that would be to lie to our spouse because we’re being inauthentic. Rather, I think we need to acknowledge what our current state is, express it in healthy ways, and work on giving our disappointments to God.
So, what does this look like?
Firstly, I think a lot of high drive spouses need to initiate sex more often. Yes, I said more often. If you are feeling it, you should initiate. I know, that’s scary, but it’s authentic. I think a lot of low drive spouses don’t realize just how often their high drive spouses want sex. If you initiate 1/10th of the time that you want sex, and they turn you down half of the time, well, then I think a lot of low drive spouses think that’s a fair compromise. Low drive spouse doesn’t want sex or maybe once a month, but you want it 10 times a month, so we’ll settle on 5.
But, what if you were authentic and initiated 100 times instead. Now, it drops to a 20:1 compromise. Isn’t that what the high drive spouse is actually feeling like? I think it is for many of us. If the high drive spouse initiates 100 times a month, I doubt the low drive spouse is going to compromise at 50. But, they might increase to 10 if they realize just how strong and frequent this desire is. Or they might not. They might just stay at 5. But at least everyone will know what’s going on under the surface then. Whereas before the high drive spouse was dealing with it alone.
In the inevitable times that sex doesn’t happen when you initiate (and if you initiate 100 times a month, it’s bound to happen a lot), then there are your opportunities to learn to give that to God and lean on Him. In the mean time, it’s okay to feel disappointment. It’s okay to feel remorse and regret. And, I think, it’s okay to express that, within reason.
I mean, no one wants to have sex with a whiner. So, don’t go around the house sulking and sighing all day. That’s decidedly unsexy. But, if you’re spouse says “I’m sorry sex didn’t happen today”, then it’s fine to respond with “I’m disappointed too. Let’s try again tomorrow.” Now, what’s better is to says something like “That’s okay, rest up, because tomorrow you’re going to need that energy.”, but the trick is that if you’re going to say that, then you really have to be okay with it; you’re also going to have to be okay tomorrow, if sex doesn’t happen again that day either.
My point is: be authentic. Pretending to be further alone in your walk with God helps no one. Pretending to be okay with being turned down for sex when you are seething inside, or crying, or depressed over it, is lying to your spouse. It’s being inauthentic, it’s hiding who you really are, and that’s not okay. So, be authentic. Share what’s going on with you. You know what? It might actually lead to more sex, because being authentic and vulnerable is sexy…so long as it’s not whiney or sulky.
17 thoughts on “Be Authentic about your Sexual Desire”
As a low drive person, I would completely shut down if faced with that kind of pressure.
Would it not be better to deal with the conflict rather than being forced to choose which of you is going to shutdown? It sounds like you’re saying “either he has to shut down emotionally, or I’m going to shut down physically”. Perhaps I misunderstood.
I think Jay’s exaggerated numbers make this sound a lot scarier than it is. 100 times a month is 3-4 times a day(!). I’m the “higher drive” spouse in my marriage, and those numbers scare *me*. (and yeah, I know, “higher” is relative, but in fact, I desire pretty frequent sex, and those numbers still make me cringe in terror 😉 ) That said, the underlying point is valid. My wife would be perfectly content if we never had sex. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy it, it’s just that it would not bother her much if we stopped having it. For the longest time, we were at about 3-4 times a month (once a week on weekends, and if we missed on that, for whatever reason, we just missed). It took me a long time to finally tell her honestly how far short of my actual desire that arrangement was. We’ve since done a lot of work on communicating and building up our relationship, and along the way settled on a frequency that is much closer to what I desire. The thing I would suggest is that going from asking for sex weekly to asking daily without warning is going to make your lower drive spouse activate fight or flight response. If you are in a position where you’re not asking for sex nearly as often as you actually want it, you really need to sit down with your spouse and discuss this with them rather than shock him/her by suddenly bombarding him/her with sexual advances. It won’t be easy, and you’ll be admitting that you’ve not been honest about it previously (even if the intent was to avoid conflict with your spouse). The thing is, to Jay’s point in his reply comment, the unspoken disconnect between my wife and I was causing relationship problems beyond the bedroom, and it was entirely my fault for not being honest about my desire with my wife. My wife didn’t even realize there was a problem, while I was frustrated and not content, and while it was wrong of me, given human nature it affected my attitude towards the entire marriage. We didn’t immediately start having sex more often, but talking about it and getting it out in the open immediately helped. Instead of a festering sore spot that wasn’t ever going to heal, it was something that both of us were going to work on together. So anyway, while I wouldn’t suggest that your husband suddenly start asking for sex daily out of nowhere, I would advise you not to just shut down if your husband confessed to wanting a lot more sex than you’re currently having. Jay is right that it is better to work through this together than to let the problem linger unspoken.
…I could initiate 3-4 times a day, no problem. I wouldn’t expect sex all of those times, of course, but to express my desire 3-4 times a day, no problem.
If I initiated sex 3-4 times a day, my wife would call me a sex addict and demand that I see a counselor ASAP! And I think that she would be right…
I’m not seeing a problem with that. Go to a counselor, then you might start talking. Expressing desire a few times a day is not an addict anymore than saying “I love you” multiple times a day make you suffocating.
I wish my husband would do this, I would love to do the, In Her, On Her Rule. He’s too shamed based, me I’m heart broken. HIs selfishness is very heart breaking to say the least. I was alway the more willing, what a waste:( Most husband would be surprised by what there wives will be willing to do or expand too doing in a safe loving environment. At least I was, now nothing:((
Use to be HIs_Pleasure, not so much anymore:(( Can’t remember………
Ok, fair enough, but then I think we’re talking about slightly different things. Yeah, I could easily tell my wife I was thinking about sex 3-4 times a day (or sometimes even more), but it wouldn’t be “authentic” to say that I actually wanted sex that often. Or to put it another way, if request 1 were turned down, request 2 is in some sense a continuation of request 1, since nothing has happened to satisfy the desire, and so on. On one hand, it is true that unmet sexual desire builds the longer its unmet, much like hunger does. A starving man can think of nothing else but eating, while a fed one doesn’t obsess nearly that much about food. It’s not entirely unfair to point this out to a lower drive spouse, in terms of coming to a compromise. But it is a bit disingenuous to count “compromise ratios” based on it, since I think that if my wife weren’t at work at 10am, and we did have a go, much like the “fed man”, I wouldn’t be nearly as likely to be thinking about sex again at 1:30pm.
I would be 🙂
What is it about the more frequent sex would make you shut down.?Lack of orgasm, the way he makes love to you, the time, effort, to busy, it hurts, not enough foreplay past abuse that comes to mind?What if he made sex all about you 2 out of the three times you did it in whatever time frame (day, week, or month) if he was okay with that. A full body massage just for you that ended with a manually or orally orgasm. (If you okay with that.) Then maybe you would be more comfortable and willing with making love afterwards.
That was meant for Heather.
Ouch!!! preaching to me. I tend to walk around and sulk, whine, and be depressed. The he gets mad and was like why didn’t you say something a week ago. We have been working on us both initiating with texts, and just things said throughout the day amd small sexual touches. It’s helping keeping sex in the forefront.
A really good post. We have been talking on e-mail about this and this is a good answer altough i feel it’s really hard. I feel like an annoying creep asking so many times. The last months my wife and I have starting to have less sex. First it was every two week, then suddenly every three week altough I tried and now it’s been more than a month and there is nothing. Every time after we had sex I started to count how many days had passed so I could ask again because I felt like a pervert asking again after one day or so. It’s not easy to be asking or trying to initiate and be neglected.
You write in your post that if there are underlying reasons for desiring sex that need to be fixed then the desire may be weaker. I have started to wonder if my high sex drive is caused by the fact that we live in a world that is sex crazy but at the same time I have been restrained by religion to not have sex. This restraining has led to a desire for sex, to long for it and Now that I am married that is now one of the things I want most of all. The problem is that sex isn’t that desirable. Maybe that’s what I think because of the restrains and that’s why it hurts and it’s frustrating when my wife doesn’t want to have sex? Can my views on sex affect my libido?
Yeah, views on sex can definitely affect libido.
Trying to initiate sex 3-4 times a day is way over the top unless you are on honeymoon or laycation. Perhaps it would be more effective and reasonable to just indicate you feel sexual desire for her (or him) those times rather than try and make each one into an attempt to have sex. Then when you do initiate it isn’t a surprise out of the blue and they know it’s something you’ve been waiting for.
I agree with being a whiner is unsexy, but at the same time if you say something hurts you and you don’t show any outward sign of hurt, the words don’t carry much weight. Part of being authentic is letting your spouse see what you are dealing with, but you can’t let your emotions run away with you either.
I think other people initiate differently than I … to me, expressing desire is an initiation.
For it’s a matter of whether there is an opportunity or not. I’ll express desire at times when it just isn’t possible or practical to have sex. I don’t count it as initiating sex, I’m just expressing my interest, letting her know I hope we will have a chance to soon. Expressing desire when we have the time and opportunity to go for it then and there is what I would consider initiating.