Desire vs. willingness

Jay Dee

Desire vs. willingness

Aug 26, 2016

Yesterday I promised I’d write a post on desire vs. willingness, because, again, this is a topic I’ve mentioned many times, but never devoted a post to.  Our society teaches us that we shouldn’t have sex unless we desire it.  In movies, both of the

YDesire vs Willingnessesterday I promised I’d write a post on desire vs. willingness, because, again, this is a topic I’ve mentioned many times, but never devoted a post to.  Our society teaches us that we shouldn’t have sex unless we desire it.  In movies, both of the romantically involved characters are suddenly burning with passion before they have sex.  It seems spontaneous, while miraculously being perfectly timed. In real life, this rarely happens.  More often than not, one spouse has a spontaneous desire and the other is responsive.  If that wasn’t the dynamic we’d all just sit around asking “Do you want now?  No?  Alright, I’ll ask the next time I do.”  Actually … I think that actually happens with a lot of couples.  And it’s insane.

We have this crazy notion that if we’re not suddenly feeling desire, then sex is an imposition.  As if this wonderful gift from God somehow sours into something disgusting if we happen to not be feeling spontaneous desire at the exact same moment our spouse is.  Healthy couples have realized that there’s nothing wrong with spontaneous desire.  That’s how they can have amazing sex, even if it’s scheduled and both of them have to rely on responsive desire.  How is this possible?  Because they’ve accepted that sometimes a willingness to have sex can be just as powerful as a desire to have sex.

Desire to have sex

Desire is this strange thing.  It’s not really measurable.  We can’t really explain what it is except that we “want” something.  Too often we get it confused with physical arousal, which, while related, is very different.  For example, Viagra (et al) can boost physical arousal in a man, it can give him an erection, but it can’t force him to want sex.  It can’t affect desire.  Now, most men will respond with desire if they have an erection, and so it works most of the time.  In women, it’s a bit different.  Their arousal non-concordance is much stronger.  I have no doubt that there is a pill out there that can get a woman physically aroused, but there is little chance that that physical arousal will actually lead to mental arousal / desire.  It’s harder to force desire in women because the signs of physical arousal in a woman aren’t as obvious, even to them.

What we do know is that for many people spontaneous desire just doesn’t happen very often.  About 30% of women say it almost never happens, and spontaneous desire frequency tends to drop with age as well.  This is why a lot of men are surprised (and not in a good way) when their wives start becoming gatekeepers later on in marriage.  For some of them, their spontaneous desire is waning, and they refuse to utilize the other mode: responsive desire.  A lot of men (and women) see this right after they get married.  I suspect that this is because dopamine is triggered in high doses during dating/engagement/honeymoon because of the excitement and dopamine directly influences arousal (both physical and mental).  I further suspect that this can trigger spontaneous desire more often, or at least significantly boost the Sexual Excitation System (more on that in another post) so that it counters the Sexual Inhibition System (again, another post) and makes it easier to accept responsive desire.  But, I’ve not seen anyone doing studies on that yet.  So, that’s just my hypothesis.

When the excitement wears off and it become normal life, well, then we fall into what is actually normative for the person, which often feels like a bait and switch, though I doubt it’s intentional in most cases.

This is when we need to fall back on responsive desire.  However, that requires one be willing to be aroused.

Willingness to have sex

Do not deprive one another … – 1 Corinthians 7:5a

Instead, those spouses who experience responsive desire more often than spontaneous desire need to have an attitude of being willing to have sex.  I think this is exactly what the Bible calls for.  We’re rarely going to find ourselves spontaneously aroused at the same time, and so one, or preferably both, need to be willing to allow themselves to aroused in response.

I’ve gotten so many comments over the years from wives who have picked this concept up from a post, or from our course for wives, and they are amazed at the outcome of that simple mindset shift.  It redefines their marriage! Yes, their entire marriage.  Because the willingness to have sex instead of relying on spontaneous desire, that mindset change overflows into other areas of marriage as well.  Maybe I don’t feel like going for a hike now…but I might enjoy it when I’m out.  Maybe I don’t feel like doing the dishes now … but I’ll be happy with the outcome.  Plus, there are all the other benefits of having more frequent sex in marriage too.

The problem is when a spouse (be they husband or wife) refuse to be aroused.  When they think that spontaneous arousal is the only valid form.  Because for many of them spontaneous arousal just didn’t happen.  Then they decide unilaterally that sex isn’t important for marriage, because it’s not important for them.  This is not only incredibly selfish, it’s also childish.

Children under a certain age don’t understand what is termed “Theory of mind”.  That is they think everyone has the same perspective they do.  This slowly starts to grow as they progress, but it’s extremely evident in a toddler.  If they are hungry, everyone should be hungry.  They will try to feed you even.  If they are upset, they’re confused and frightened if you aren’t.

As we grow up, we start to understand that we don’t share a brain, that we have different perspectives on life and experiences.  But, some individuals never fully mature in that way.  They think that because sex isn’t important to them, then it’s not important to their spouse.

Or worse, they’re condescending in their belief that they are normative for not desiring sex, and so they accuse their husband or wife of being broken, of being addicted to sex, of being full of lust.  Usually when this occurs, the relationship has died.  Marriages cannot survive condescension.  Oh, they may still be legally married, own the house together, share on bills and such, but the fundamental relationship is gone.  How can you be intimate with someone who thinks you are sick for desiring to be with them?

Sorry, went off on a bit of a rant there.  Where was I?  Oh yes, willingness to have sex.

Test drive a willingness to have sex

My point is, the vast majority of “low drive” spouses will find that if they allow themselves to be aroused, they will actually enjoy themselves.  They’ll see not only personal benefits in their health, mood, etc., but also huge benefits to their marriage.  Don’t believe me?  Try it.  Give it a month of not saying “No”.  Of saying “Yes” whenever your spouse wants sex (within reason).  And don’t do it begrudgingly.  You have to actually be willing.  It’s okay to ask for help getting aroused in that time.  Ask for a massage.  Massages are great for responsive desire.  They set the context for sex (naked, touching, bedroom, locked door), and give your body time to get aroused.

Low drive spouses: I dare you, the next time your spouse initiates sex and you aren’t “in the mood” (as if you should randomly be in the mood), then respond with “Are you willing to give me a massage first to help me get in the mood?”

High drive spouses: Try offering a massage instead of initiating sex.  Like I said, it sets the context which should work with the Sexual Excitation System to get your spouse closer to being able to say “yes”.

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11 thoughts on “Desire vs. willingness”

  1. Higherdrivewife says:

    I wish I could get my husband to read this article!

    “The problem is when a spouse (be they husband or wife) refuse to be aroused. When they think that spontaneous arousal is the only valid form. Because for many of them spontaneous arousal just didn’t happen. Then they decide unilaterally that sex isn’t important for marriage, because it’s not important for them. This is not only incredibly selfish, it’s also childish.”

    Sadly, this is my life right now. Praying for a miracle.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      What do you think would happen if you sent it to him?

  2. Mike says:

    I am always ready to go, my wife is never feeling aroused. Fortunately for our marriage and my sanity she has decided to engage sexually with me everyday. Sometimes I can get her aroused, but most of the time she just enjoys being close and pleasuring me. This used to bother me, but now I just take it as part of our married life.

    1. Butterflywings says:

      I am glad for you and your wife Mike that it no longer bothers you. Men and women are built differently physically. Orgasms for women and men aren’t quite the same function. I can’t speak for all women or your wife, but I know this – for many women, an orgasm is an added bonus not a necessity. Most women just want to feel desired to enjoy sex. Obviously sometimes the the strong desire for climaxing is there, but other times, all that is needed is the intimacy. If you ever feel again that it is bothering, please don’t let it. If your wife says she is enjoying being close and pleasuring you and honestly doesn’t want more, then believe her 🙂 Some of the time for some women, that can make us happier and feel more loved than the biggest orgasm.

      Jay mentioned the theory of mind thing…. when it comes to your situation, theory of mind is very relevant – your wife and you have very different needs and wants from sex. It probably sounds strange to you that she just enjoys being close to you because you want something else from sex, but if that’s what makes her happy, just accept it 🙂 And thank God for the glorious differences between men and women or there probably wouldn’t even be sex 😀

  3. Hurting Bad says:

    Higherdrivewife, sadly I could have written word for word the same thing. Every, painful, exact word.

    I can’t answer for higherdrivewife, but I can answer for my marriage – it would just be like every other article on sex and/or marriage I have sent my husband. Even though our pastor has instructed my husband to listen to my pleadings to learn about marriage, he would just say “I’ll think about reading it sometime maybe” and then never actually do. When asked weeks later if he had found a chance, he’d just answer with it “no, I was too busy [but plays computer games for hours every single night] and there is nothing an article can teach me that I don’t already know and/or no article would make me change my mind on the topic”.

    This sums up my marriage completely “They’re condescending in their belief that they are normative for not desiring sex, and so they accuse their husband or wife of being broken, of being addicted to sex, of being full of lust. Usually when this occurs, the relationship has died. Marriages cannot survive condescension. Oh, they may still be legally married, own the house together, share on bills and such, but the fundamental relationship is gone. How can you be intimate with someone who thinks you are sick for desiring to be with them?”.

    Don’t forget being called a nymphomaniac! The thing is, you CAN’T be intimate in that situation. You can have sex (on the rare occasions your refusing spouse allows it), but it’s not making love. It’s not intimacy. In some ways sex once a month or so is worse than no sex at all because it’s a painful reminder of what your marriage lacks. Because sex once a month isn’t making love. Because to “make love” you have to ACTUALLY love someone. And if you actually love someone, you don’t torture them by rejecting them day after day and occasionally giving them sex out of pity and “duty”.

    Our pastor has outright said what my husband and I have is not a marriage. And it’s not. There is little physical intimacy and no emotional intimacy at all. We are just two housemates who occasionally have sex together. And he is happy with that. He gets everything he wants, I have nothing.

    When I was single, I was content. I had everything I wanted in life except partnership companionship, sex and the ability to have another child. When we were dating, I was happy because I had everything I wanted including partial emotional companionship, except for sex and the ability to have another child. When I got married, I had to give up everything I had to be with him – my own place, my job (and it has ended up being my whole career I gave up in the long run), my financial independence, my hobbies (as where we are now, most are not available and all are unaffordable), my friends and my family. But I willingly and gladly gave those all up for him – I did it joyfully because it meant finally being able to have full partnership companionship – living together, full emotional companionship, and full physical companionship (ie sex) – and the extra thing you can’t without sex (children, our own family).

    So I was devastated to find after our wedding night that he had no intention of any of the above. I gave up everything (earthly) that matters to most people (career, stable finances, freedom, accommodation of one’s own, etc) for the only (earthly) things more important – marriage and family – only to discover straight after our wedding that I’d given up everything else for nothing. Forget having a honeymoon period (even on the honeymoon itself), forget waiting for the return to normal life (which wasn’t until months after the wedding for us), I got the bait and switch straight after the wedding night. And unlike most marriages, I had literally given up the entire rest of my life to be with my husband due to our circumstances. He spent nearly the entire of our honeymoon ignoring me for computer games, the sex was basically non-existent after the wedding night, and after telling me in the lead up to our wedding he was happy to start trying for kids straight away (neither of us are young – both his parents and mine had 3-4 kids by the time they were our age, and my parents were late starters) and that he wanted multiple kids, he decided to inform me just days after our wedding that he’d “changed his mind” and didn’t want kids currently, didn’t know if he ever wanted to have kids and wasn’t planning to think about it for at least 5-10 years (the whole point of trying straight away is because we didn’t know if I was even able to have kids anymore considering my age and health, and if we’d waited even 5 years, we wouldn’t have the one child we have). But since our child was born, he’s made it clear we will never have another. I guess at least he’s stopped stringing me along, saying wait X number of years and we’ll think about it then (knowing it won’t be physically possible for me), he’s no longer left me living with the false hope of maybe one day having the big family he promised me right up until our wedding day and then “changed his mind” just days after. But it certainly doesn’t take away the pain of knowing it will never happen.

    Some people say that the “bait and switch” is not an intentional thing, but how can that be the case when before marriage, people make promises of shared lives, having children, and acting like regular horny people, wanting to kiss and cuddle all the time and you constantly have to remind them not to go too far, and then literally as soon as the wedding day is done and over, within 24 hours of your marriage beginning, you are told sorry we’re not having kids, and the beginning of being ignored sexually, physically, emotionally and spiritually? How can it not be intentional? It’s not like having a wedding ceremony and having sex together for the first time suddenly turns a new spouse off wanting sex, and companionship and kids for some people does it?

    I don’t know. I’m just hurting from new reminders of what I gave up to be with my husband, and new reminders from him that we will never have a real marriage – not physically, not sexually, not emotionally, and not spiritually, and that we will never have the big family we promised.

    It hurts, a lot.

    1. Spiffy says:

      Hurting Bad I wish I could just give you a big hug and a shoulder to lean on

    2. secondchance says:

      Praying for you and your situation-even when there seems to be no earthly hope

  4. LatterDay Marriage says:

    Great sex can happen with neither spouse starts off with desire, but both have a willingness and make a choice to go for it. There has been the odd time my wife assumed I had desire and was willing, but at the start I was just willing too. Why waste the opportunity though? Foreplay gets us both into the desire zone and sometimes it even works out better that way. It’s easier to go slowly and enjoy the journey more.

    I must say however, that it means a LOT to me to see her desire me now and then and pursue sexual satisfaction from me with intensity. If willingness was all I ever saw from her it would start to lose meaning.

  5. Anonymous says:

    We are 57 yo and our sex life has never been better. The method of getting her arouse over the years has become a routine based on the use of texting and pictures and vids using our phones. Thank God we live in this era 🙂
    I have labeled her MY MILF and point out to her that I am so lucky to be the one that get to play with her. She gets aroused when I text her while at work and tell her I’m looking at a video or picture she has sent me; She has even gone into the bathroom at work and taken a XXX pic or video for me. I ask her often what sexy panties she has on for me today. When I’m away on business I can count on her to send me a “special” vid every night.
    My point is, this is something that she probably wouldn’t have needed or done when we were young, but she thankfully realizes it works to arouse us both and we have great sex at least twice a week (which we do record on occasion :-))
    Her willingness leads to arousal for us both!
    Try it! It works!

  6. Sex is over rated says:

    For 18 years my husband has orgasmed during sex. I have learned what he likes by paying attention to his body. Unfortunately, he told me once it takes too long to get me orgasm. I used to think it was okay to be “close to to him” and it was enough. I also thought It would be nice to experience a “bonus” before I die. I recently told him sex was over rated and not a big deal and I am happy with just cuddling, no fondling. I no longer want my body to be used to deposit sperm.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      It’s not that sex is overrated, it’s that your marriage has a fundamental issue that needs to be resolved – he’s not willing to serve you. I’d suggest booking some time with a Christian marriage counselor rather than just accepting the situation and making it worse.

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